Josh Tomlin‘s solid start and some good plate discipline throughout the lineup helped the Indians (12-10) even the series against the White Sox (12-12) and take sole possession of first place in the AL Central with a 6-3 win Wednesday night.
Both Tomlin and Chicago starter Phillip Humber looked good in the early going as neither team scored in the first three innings. It was the White Sox who got on the board first as Adam Dunn took Tomlin deep for a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth—put a hittable flyball pitcher like Tomlin in a bandbox like U.S. Cellular and it was bound to happen.
But the Indians didn’t stay down long. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Travis Hafner singled to set the stage for Carlos Santana‘s three-run homer to give the Tribe a 3-1 lead. The White Sox responded in the bottom of the inning on Alejandro De Aza‘s two-run single to even the score at 3-3.
The Indians got back to work with another two-out rally in the eighth as Michael Brantley scored on Jack Hannahan‘s RBI double. Hafner then unloaded on the first pitch Matt Thornton threw him in the ninth for a two-run shot. Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez kept Chicago’s bats quiet in the late innings as Cleveland held on for a 6-3 victory.
The Good: It was a solid outing for Tomlin, who held the White Sox to three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four in six innings. It could have been a lot worse—given Tomlin’s homer-prone nature, the thought of him pitching in U.S. Cellular made me a little uneasy. Luckily he still managed to turn in a quality start.
Kudos are also due to the Indians’ lineup for drawing eight walks off Chicago’s pitchers. And Vinnie Pestano’s shutdown eighth inning was actually pretty huge—the Tribe’s odds of winning improved from 61 percent to 85 percent between he entered the game (Brent Lillibridge was the tying run on first with nobody out in the eighth) and when he walked off the mound.
The Bad: In his first game with the Indians, Johnny Damon exited in the sixth inning because of “general cramping”—not the best way to kick off the season. The silver lining: the injury report inspired someone to make a Twitter account for the great Civil War hero, General Cramping.
The “Huh?”: I know I question Manny Acta’s batting orders a lot, but Wednesday’s might have been the most surprising lineup of the season. I actually liked the idea of putting Johnny Damon at the top of the order and sliding Michael Brantley down to seventh, but I was surprised that Acta slotted Hafner ahead of Santana and demoted the red-hot Jack Hannahan to the No. 9 hole.
Weirdest of all was that Jason Kipnis hit second while Shin-Soo Choo was demoted to sixth. It seems like a given that Choo hits at the top of the order. That Kipnis got precedence was especially surprising since he was banished to the No. 7 hole in favor of Jason Donald on Tuesday. Right or wrong, it’s hard to get a handle on what Acta’s thinking has been when filling out the lineup card this season.
Interesting Tidbit: Before his last outing, Josh Tomlin had gone more than a year without giving up more than one free pass in a game. Wednesday night marked his second consecutive two-walk start.