Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin was recalled from Triple-A Columbus with a chance to prove he belonged in the Major League rotation. Instead, he allowed six runs on eight hits in four and one-third innings, including a costly three-run homer in the second, as the Cincinnati Reds ended the Indians four game winning streak and ten game home winning streak over the Reds on Tuesday night in a 9-2 final.
Tomlin (5-8) was in his usual form of late – good control, just one walk, a decent tally of strikeouts, but a high hit rate and a costly deep fly that proved to be too much for his offensive teammates to overcome, especially against one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League this season in Johnny Cueto.
The Reds struck for a run in the first inning off Tomlin after two fly ball outs. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and former Indians outfielder Ryan Ludwick doubled to deep left field. Chisenhall received the throw in the infield and was nonchalant about it and the ball glanced off of his glove into foul territory, allowing a hustling Frazier to score on the play to give the Reds an early advantage.
Cleveland responded in the bottom of the frame after a one-out double from Mike Aviles. After fouling off a couple of pitches, Michael Brantley drove in his 72nd run of the season with a single to right, but was thrown out attempting to advance to second. Aviles’s run made it a 1-1 game.
That was as close as it would get.
Brayan Pena struck out on three pitches to start the second but reached safely on the wild pitch from Tomlin for strike three. Kris Negron singled to center to move Pena up 90 feet, but Pena was erased at third as the next batter, Zack Cozart, bunted into a fielder’s choice back to Tomlin. With two on and one out, Ramon Santiago drove the first pitch of his at bat over the wall in right for his first home run of the season, giving the Reds a 4-1 lead.
“He tried to start him out and get ahead down and away and it leaked back over the middle for the three-run homer,” said manager Terry Francona. “Those types of pitches have kind of plagued Josh a little bit. When he executes pitches, he gets people out. Sometimes, his margin for error with his fastball, he has paid for it when he has made mistakes.”
Cozart was more successful the next time around in the fourth as he tripled to deep center field to start the inning. After a groundout and a strikeout, Jay Bruce legged out an infield single to second, as shortstop Jose Ramirez could not make the play on the shift, which allowed Cozart to score to make it 5-1 Cincinnati.
The Reds tacked on another run in the fifth. Consecutive one-out singles by Chris Heisey and Pena ended the night of Tomlin. Carlos Carrasco relieved, but the Reds pulled off a delayed double steal, as Heisey scored easily from third as Gomes’s throw to second was in plenty of time to get Pena in a run down. Negron struck out looking one pitch later to end the inning.
Tomlin was charged with six runs, five of which were earned, on eight hits in four and one-third innings. He walked one and struck out five. He has now allowed at least one home run in 14 of his 16 appearances this season and in each of his last five starts.
A rally opportunity for the Tribe fizzled in the seventh in bizarre circumstances almost too unbelievable to describe. A walk and a single to start the inning put runners on the corners for Gomes. He doubled off of the wall in right field, scoring Chisenhall from third. As right fielder Bruce fielded the ball, a second ball entered the field of play from an errant warm up toss in the Reds bullpen. That ball bounded in towards second base as Bruce’s throw was fielded in shallow right center by Negron. Murphy, seeing the second ball on the ground, moved off of the third base bag towards the plate and Negron threw to third, where Murphy was tagged out trying to return with a head first dive.
Chris Dickerson grounded out to second for the second out, which could have scored Murphy had he not been thrown out. A flyout ended the inning, with Cleveland trailing 6-2.
“[Umpire] Jerry Davis, his explanation was right on but it wasn’t fun to hear,” said Francona. “I thought I saw what I saw. They can’t kill the play until the conclusion. I understand the rule. They said, ‘we do understand your frustration, there’s nothing we can do’…It was unfortunate and kind of fluky, but that’s the way it goes.”
“Maybe there needs to be a rule instituted,” said Murphy. “because the momentum of the play was basically over. And then I see the ball there, that’s not a live ball, and I go. Fortunately the game ended up to being a lopsided game, because if that’s a one run game, we have second and third and no outs there and we’re trying to mount a comeback.”
Cueto (13-6) seemed to get stronger and stronger as the game went on, showing the Indians why he was an NL All-Star this season. He threw a complete game effort, allowing a pair of runs on five hits while walking two and striking out six, adding on to his NL leading total of innings pitched and his second-best strikeout total. The complete game was his fourth of the season while he lowered his WHIP even further from the 0.916 he began the game at.
The Reds put it completely out of reach in the ninth. Bruce hit his eleventh home run of the year to lead off the inning. Three singles around a strikeout loaded the bases and Negron doubled to right. Two of the three runners scored but the throw to the plate caught the third runner in a close play that was challenged by the Reds, but upheld, giving the game its final 9-2 score.
On a weird night with a run scoring on a routine fielding play, two balls in play simultaneously, and a runner appearing safe ruled out at the plate, Murphy’s infield single with two outs in the ninth was overturned in a crew chief review to end the ball game.
With the loss, the Indians (57-56) remain in third place in the AL Central. The Reds (57-56) remain in fourth place, trailing the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers.
The series will move to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for the final two games between the clubs this season. Mat Latos (3-3, 3.07) has the honor for manager Bryan Price and the Reds on Wednesday night as the Reds look to expand on their six-game home winning streak against the Indians. Control has been a factor for Latos, but he has given his team back-to-back quality outings. Danny Salazar (4-4, 4.45) will take the mound for Francona and the Tribe. Like Latos, he has given his squad consecutive quality starts and has won three straight games for the first time in his career.
Game time is scheduled for 7:10 PM. Follow all of the action on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images