Tribe and Tomlin Survive Late Inning Scare; Indians 6, Rays 5
Mike B. | On 11, May 2014
Heart and hustle can get a ballplayer a long way in the game of baseball.
Nyjer Morgan and Josh Tomlin used the hustle to give the Indians the lead and the new-look bullpen might have created a heart attack before slamming the door. The tandem spurred the Indians to 6-5 victory in Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon, needing every bit of their heroics to compensate for a shaky eighth inning where Tampa plated three runs.
Tomlin didn’t make his big league debut in 2014 until last week and Morgan has been up and down from the minor leagues during the early part of the season, but the two role players played center stage. Morgan had three hits and Tomlin tossed six innings to give the Tribe their first series win in Tampa since 2007.
Tampa Bay took the lead in the bottom of the first inning on the Indians and Tomlin when Matt Joyce homered to right, center field. His third home run of the season—a solo shot—staked the Rays to a 1-0 lead. Tomlin’s pitch caught a little too much of the strike zone and Joyce took advantage of a pitch on the middle of plate.
Cleveland battled right back in the top of the second inning off their former farmhand, Chris Archer. With one out in the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Yan Gomes singled through the right side to put runners on the corners. Morgan’s check swing could not have been a better bunt. The check swing rolled down the third base line, stopping two inches into fair play and leaving the Rays with no play. Cabrera hustled home and the Indians tied the game at one run apiece. After Mike Aviles popped out to shortstop, Michael Bourn scorched a double over the right fielder’s head and two runs scored, staking the Tribe to an early 3-1 lead.
Meanwhile Tomlin retired seven in a row after Joyce’s home run. It wasn’t until the bottom of the fourth inning that Tampa produced more offense. Ben Zobrist started the inning with a double to deep right field and raced home on Joyce’s single through the right side. Joyce’s second run batted in of the game cut the Indians lead to 3-2.
Tomlin was able to use a double play ball to minimize the damage as he moved through the middle of the Rays’ lineup in the fourth inning. The gritty, right-hander allowed back-to-back singles in the fifth inning with two outs, but this time got Zobrist to ground out to first base to end the threat.
The Tribe took control of the game in the top of the sixth inning. On Archer’s 100th pitch of the game, Gomes jerked a low curveball down the left field line for a solo home run. The leadoff home run was Gomes’ fifth of the season and extended the Indians’ lead to 4-2.
Gomes’ homer ended Archer’s afternoon. Archer (2-2) was credited with allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks, while striking out two. The former Lake County Captain was 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA in April, but has yet to win a start in three chances in May. Brad Boxberger replaced Archer on the mound.
Cleveland tacked on another run in the inning, courtesy of Morgan. Morgan reached base on a bunt single. Initially ruled out, Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the play and Morgan was called safe. The speedy Morgan then moved to second base on a balk call and advanced to third base when Boxberger threw behind Aviles while he tried to bunt. Aviles’ sacrifice fly to center field allowed Morgan to trot home and give the Indians a 5-2 lead.
Tomlin (2-0) survived six innings of heart and battling out of jams. The right-hander allowed two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out two in his second start since his Triple-A recall. Francona had a chance to use his new bullpen-by-committee to record the final nine outs of the game. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Scott Atchison pitched two-thirds of an inning before giving way to Marc Rzepczynski.
Morgan added what turned out to be the crucial insurance run when he led off the eighth inning with a solo home run to right field. Morgan’s solo homer off Brandon Gomes gave the Indians a 6-2 lead. The three-hit effort this afternoon was Morgan’s second of the season. He’s now hitting .341 and this afternoon’s start was his first in the same lineup as Bourn.
The new bullpen alignment found their first high-pressure situation in the eighth inning, partially due to their own poor performance. Rzepczynski started the inning after finishing the seventh. Zobrist led off the inning with a walk before Joyce struck out. Evan Longoria singled to right field, putting Rays on the corners with just one out. Rzepczynski induced the ground ball he needed from James Loney, the chopper back to him that could have been a double play ball turned into a bad throw to second base. Cabrera saved the throw from going into center field, but Zobrist scored to make the game 6-3 and everyone else was safe.
That left Francona little choice but to call upon Cody Allen. Allen did not have his sharpest stuff, however. Will Myers welcomed Allen to the game with a single to right field to score Longoria and cut the lead to 6-4. Then, Allen hit Desmond Jennings with a pitch to load the bases and Yunel Escobar hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 6-5 contest. What started as a calm inning had turned into a five-alarm fire before Allen struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Hanigan to end the inning.
The Indians are off on Monday before traveling to the Rogers Centre in Toronto for the start of a three game series. Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86) will toe the rubber for the Tribe, while knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.76) will do battle for the Blue Jays. The game time is set for 7:07 p.m.
Photo: Steve Nesius/AP Photo