Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin lasted eight innings on the mound and the Indians offense got to the early Cy Young candidate Chris Sale for six runs and chased him in the fourth as the Tribe earned a 6-2 win on Tuesday night.
Things might not have started well for Tomlin, but they ended well as his offense gave him plenty of support and he made the runs stand up against a potent White Sox lineup. On the second pitch of the home half of the first, Chicago’s Adam Eaton sent his fifth career leadoff homer over the wall to give the White Sox an early 1-0 lead.
With the way Sale has pitched this season, it seemed like an ominous moment for the Tribe, but Tomlin’s offense picked him up with a pair of three-spots, starting in the third.
Michael Martinez went down on three pitches to start the inning and Rajai Davis grounded to third on the second pitch of his at bat. But Jose Ramirez had possibly the biggest at bat of the game, falling behind in the count quickly at 1-2 before fouling off four pitches and working the count full before drawing a ten-pitch walk. Francisco Lindor jumped on a 1-0 pitch and singled Ramirez to third and Mike Napoli cleared them both with a triple to left-center and a painful head-first slide that gave plenty of laughs in the dugout, especially once it was clear Napoli was not injured. After a walk from Carlos Santana, Juan Uribe singled to right to culminate a nine-pitch at bat to bring home Napoli, as the Indians claimed a 3-1 lead. The inning ended after six consecutive strikes to Marlon Byrd, who finally struck out swinging to close an eight-batter, 19+ minute inning for Sale.
Chris Gimenez homered to left to lead off the fourth and to kick start more Cleveland scoring. Martinez struck out again before Davis drew a walk. With Ramirez at the plate, Sale threw a wild pitch that an aggressive Davis turned into two bases, moving to third on the play. Ramirez walked and Lindor singled to center, scoring Davis easily and ending the night of Sale.
Former Tribe farmhand Zach Putnam took over on the mound and allowed a double steal as Ramirez and Lindor both moved up into scoring position. It paid off as Napoli walked to load the bases and Santana lifted a fly to right that scored Ramirez to give the Indians a 6-1 lead.
Tomlin, after some light traffic in the second, threw his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the third before the White Sox struck through for a second run in the fourth. After Melky Cabrera flied to center, Jose Abreu doubled and scored on a two-bagger by Brett Lawrie. Chicago, however, ran itself right out of the inning as Avisail Garcia grounded to shortstop Lindor. He caught Lawrie in a rundown, throwing to Uribe for the out at third. Uribe alertly fired to first, where Garcia had curiously wandered too far from the bag and was eliminated despite a head first dive back. Inning over, Indians on top, 6-2.
Tomlin would retire 12 straight after the RBI-double from Lawrie before a two-out single by Eaton in the bottom of the eighth. A lineout from Austin Jackson ended the inning and Tomlin’s night. Cody Allen pitched the ninth, giving up a double to Abreu, but no further damage.
Cleveland (24-20) has now won two straight and guaranteed itself a split in its series in Chicago (27-20). They also pulled within a game and a half of the White Sox for the top seat in the AL Central.
“It’s awesome,” said Gimenez of the victory. “If we want to get to where we think we deserve to be, we’re going to have to play guys like that and beat guys like that on a consistent basis. So to be able to scratch one out against a guy who was pretty hot is definitely a big bonus. A lot of credit to Tomlin, he’s a bulldog, he went out there and battled and matched him toe to toe.”
TOMLIN WINS BATTLE OF UNBEATENS
After the second-pitch home run, Tomlin (7-0, 3.35 ERA) locked in on the mound and pitched a memorable ball game. He lasted eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
“First hitter of the game, home run,” said Indians manager Terry Francona about his starter. “Then you watch Sale’s first couple of pitches, and you’re like ‘who’s going to hit this guy?’ He was like electric. But JT, obviously settled down. He threw an absurd amount of strikes, and commanded everything and gave us a chance.”
Tomlin threw first pitch strikes to 24 of 29 batters and required just 99 pitches (76 strikes) over his eight-inning outing.
“You can’t just have quick innings all the time, but I think he’s aware of things like that,” said Francona. “When he pounds the strike zone and he works quick and he’s throwing all of his pitches for strikes, what he did tonight was really impressive.”
“It’s easy. It makes my job so easy when all I have to do is put a finger down and he hits the spot every time,” said Gimenez of his batterymate. “I just give him a ton of credit, from where he’s come from, to be able to consistently go out there every day and give us a chance to win. It’s a blessing, honestly. We’re very fortunate. He’s the one guy on our staff that doesn’t throw 97 MPH, but he essentially could be the dirtiest at the same time because he can throw any pitch in any count any time he wants to.”
Tomlin is the first Indians pitcher to start a season 7-0 since Dennis Martinez started the 1995 campaign with a 9-0 mark. In 18 starts since August 15 of last season (his return to the club), Tomlin is 14-2.
Sale (9-1, 2.26) was dealt his first loss of the season and continued a rough career against the Indians. He worked a season-low three and one-third innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. He walked four and struck out seven, throwing 89 pitches to get ten outs. He threw 43 pitches in the trying third inning. It led to a short outing from the lanky lefty, whose streak of 12 straight quality starts came to an end with his first loss. His string of six straight quality starts against the Indians also ended.
“In the third inning, we did a really good job with the pitch count,” said Francona, “and we scored. And then we followed it up with more, which is big. We made him work and we’ll take a win because he is, by far, one of the best in the game. His stuff is electric.”
The southpaw is now 5-7 in his career against Cleveland.
In two starts this season against the Indians, he has allowed nine earned runs in ten and one-third innings (7.84 ERA) with six walks and three home runs surrendered. Against the rest of the baseball over eight starts, he has allowed nine earned runs in 61 1/3 innings (1.32 ERA) with eight walks and three home runs.
HISTORY VIA ELIAS
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the matchup Tuesday between Tomlin and Sale was just the fourth time in Major League history that two starters with records of 6-0 or better have faced each other in the same game. The last time was in 1988.
DAY OF REST
Both Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes got the night off against Sale. Francona indicated that Lindor, who was 3-for-5 with three singles and a stolen base on Tuesday, would be in line for a day off on Wednesday afternoon.
GIMENEZ HITS A PAIR
With Gomes out of the lineup, Gimenez got the start for the second consecutive day and it paid off as he went 2-for-4 with a single and a home run. He was aggressive at the plate, seeing just seven pitches over those four trips to the batter’s box.
“It’s kinda nice to hit my weight finally, too, that’s a big plus,” joked Gimenez after the game. “It’s having a chance. I’ve been working my butt off on it, trying to be consistent. If I can help out, luckily enough I got one in the wind today and it blew it out. I can put a few good swings up there and hopefully help us win.”
ABREU DOES WORK
Abreu was the big performer in the Sox lineup on Tuesday night, going 3-for-4 with a run scored and a strikeout at the plate. Two of those hits were doubles.
BULLPEN CONTAINS TRIBE
Four White Sox relievers (Putnam, Tommy Kahnle, Matt Purke, and Dan Jennings) combined to throw five and two-thirds scoreless innings in relief of Sale, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out one.
The Sox and Tribe will meet one more time this week, as Chicago will send Jose Quintana (5-3, 1.98) to the mound. Cleveland will counter with Corey Kluber (3-5, 4.10). Kluber allowed just two runs in seven innings in his last start against Boston, while Quintana has lost each of his last two outings.
Game time for the finale of the series is scheduled for 2:10 PM ET from U.S. Cellular Field.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast