Josh Tomlin turned in one of his best outings of the season and the Indians hit a trio of solo home runs Thursday night as the Tribe took the opener of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1. The win improves Cleveland’s record to 43-39 and keeps Chicago’s AL Central lead to two games.
It took only three pitches for the Indians to get on the board. Shin-Soo Choo led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run off reigning AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. Michael Brantley took Hellickson deep in the second to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead before the Rays even got their first baserunner.
Speaking of Rays’ baserunners, they sure didn’t get very many. Elliot Johnson busted up Tomlin’s perfect game with a single in the third inning, and Will Rhymes tripled and scored on Jose Molina‘s groundout in the fifth to make it 2-1. And…well, that was it for the seven phenomenal innings Tomlin threw.
Meanwhile, the Tribe’s bats stayed quiet from the second inning until the eighth, when Travis Hafner hit a solo shot off Jake McGee to give Cleveland a 3-1 lead. Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez did their thing as the Indians breezed to their third straight win.
The Good: Josh Tomlin—wow. After getting knocked around almost constantly since he returned from the DL at the end of May, Tomlin held one of the best teams in baseball to one run on only two hits in seven terrific innings. Though he struck out only three Tampa hitters, we saw “Tomlin being Tomlin” as he didn’t issue a single free pass. As a pitch-to-contact hurler who doesn’t get many groundouts he’s quite prone to game-to-game inconsistency, but man did he look good Thursday night.
Also, how about Travis Hafner getting back into the action? Call him overpriced or disappointing, but he’s still a huge part of this team.
The Bad: The Indians scored only three runs despite reaching base 12 times (seven hits and five walks). Unlike for much of this season, though, this isn’t indicative of blown opportunities. They just scattered their hits: only once were two Cleveland baserunners aboard at the same time.
The “Huh?”: Tomlin’s BABIP for the game was a ridiculous .095. It’s only one game and he definitely looked good on the mound, but even in a tiny sample size that’s crazy.
Interesting Tidbit: Thursday night marked the first time in his career that Josh Tomlin had ever given up fewer than two hits in an outing of any length.