Tomlin Wins First Start After Long Road Back; Indians 4, Twins 2
Mike B. | On 06, May 2014
Tomlin earned the nickname from Acta for his competitive nature and southern, gritty attitude. That grittiness was on full display Tuesday night in his first start since July 27, 2012 with a four-hit effort and 4-2 victory against the Minnesota Twins. Tomlin had Tommy John surgery in August 2012 and has been taken the long road back through rehabilitation and a minor league demotion.
“That was exciting. I actually walked down to him before the game and told him, ‘hey enjoy the hell out of this,’” Indians manager Terry Francona told the media. “He loves to compete, you can tell. We gave him the lead and he did exactly what he’s supposed to. He threw strikes, he used both sides of the plate and worked ahead.”
If all things were equal, Tomlin likely won the fifth starter’s spot in spring training, but his available option to Triple-A and Carlos Carrasco’s lack of minor league option gave the race to Carrasco. After a month of subpar efforts from Carrasco, Tomlin showed the Indians what they have been missing not just for the last month, but most of the last two seasons.
“I felt good,” Tomlin said postgame. “I definitely had the nerves before the game. It’s been a long time since I started out there, but it went well and I feel great.”
The struggling Indians offense came alive quickly and gave Tomlin a little cushion to work with in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Swisher doubled to right field and scampered home on Michael Brantley’s single to center field. After Carlos Santana grounded out to first base to advance Brantley to third base, the Tribe was able to take advantage of Twins first baseman Chris Colabello’s error and Brantley scored to stake the Indians to a 2-0 lead after an inning.
Cleveland tallied a pair more against Twins starter, Samuel Deduno in the second inning. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to right field to start the inning and was moved to second on a balk by Deduno. Yan Gomes doubled to center field, allowing Chisenhall to score and Swisher came through with a key, two-out single to plate Gomes and give the Tribe a 4-0 lead after two innings.
“All his pitches have good movement, so we had to make sure we had good quality swings and not try to chase any balls,” Brantley told Katie Witham on SportsTime Ohio in regard to their early approach against Deduno.
It was all the offense Tomlin needed this evening. He allowed a pair of two-out singles in the top of the second inning but that would be all Minnesota would muster. He struck out Chad Herrmann to end the inning and keep the Twins scoreless, but did not allow another hit until the seventh.
Tomlin allowed just one baserunner—a walk to Kurt Suzuki to start the fifth inning—and faced the minimum during that stretch. Not until the seventh inning, when Colabello put the Twins on the scoreboard with a solo home run, did Tomlin allow another hit. Jason Kubel had a check-swing, base hit to the left side of the shift and after Suzuki popped out to first base, Tomlin was done for the evening with two outs in the seventh.
“That’s how I have to be successful,” Tomlin said. “I have to throw the ball down in the zone and get ahead of guys. I have to make them start guessing.”
In his first big league start since 2012, Tomlin (1-0) tossed six and two-third innings, allowing just a run on four hits and one walk, while striking out one. Aside from one relief appearance last September, it was his first action at the Major League level since Aug. 12, 2012.
“Last year, you come up and have some rehab starts, but it’s not the same feel,” Tomlin said. “You get out there tonight and not have that worry of if your elbow is hurting. It was pretty special.”
“When I saw him, he was going through that rough stretch before he got hurt,” Francona said. “Tonight, his velocity was good. You see that sometimes with the Tommy John guys. With the advancement of the surgery and the work ethic guys have and the rehab programs, they come back and their stuff is crisp.”
Marc Rzepczynski earned the final out of the seventh inning, helping close the book on Tomlin’s solid return to the big leagues.
Deduno (0-2) survived just five innings for Minnesota, allowing four runs—three earned—on six hits and two walks, while striking out two. Left-hander Logan Darnell made his Major League debut in relief of Deduno, pitching the final three innings. Darnell did not allow a hit in three innings of relief. Cleveland only logged one base hit after the second inning.
Scott Atchison pitched a solid, eighth inning working around a base runner who reached base on Gomes’ league-leading eighth error. The throwing error allowed the base runner, but a pair of fielder’s choices and a strike out kept the Twins stymied.
Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless ninth inning, earning his first save of the 2014 season and just the fourth of his career. He allowed an unearned run in the ninth courtesy of an Asdrubal Cabrera error on a ground ball at shortstop with no one on and two out in the game. Eduardo Escobar—last night’s hero—doubled to right center field to bring home the unearned run and make it 4-2 before Shaw was able to earn the final out.
The Tribe will try to take the lead in the four game series on Wednesday evening. Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.93) will look for his third straight quality start for the Indians while Minnesota will counter with free agent acquisition, right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-3, 5.82).
Photo: Mark Duncan/AP Photo