Sometimes with the good, there comes some bad. The Cleveland Indians got a good start, good run support, and a good series win over the pesky Minnesota Twins in Sunday’s win, but they also lost starting catcher Yan Gomes with what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury following a close play at first base.
Despite his clear offensive struggles at the plate this season, few question Gomes’ abilities behind the plate in regards to his defensive work, pitch framing, and game calling. He has been the catcher of preference for the starting rotation and has been an uncredited reason for the staff’s continued success over the last few seasons.
Gomes was at the plate in the top of the fifth inning with one out against Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson in a 1-0 game. After doubling in his first at bat to end an 0-for-27 slide at the plate, Gomes grounded to third. Running hard, Gomes was tagged in the leg by first baseman Kennys Vargas on the wide throw from third. Gomes landed awkwardly on the bag, appearing to slightly hyperextend his left knee, before sprawling to the ground and landing hard on his right throwing shoulder. He laid on the ground holding the knee briefly before the training staff’s focus turned to the shoulder. He was placed in a sling and left the field on a cart for x-rays. He was returning to Cleveland immediately, not accompanying the team to Kansas City, and was expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday.
“As far as I know it’s kind of like a shoulder separation,” said Gomes. “I’m going to Cleveland to be checked out and we’ll know more later.”
“It’s extremely unfortunate for the team, for him number one, but my heart goes out to the guy,” said backup catcher Chris Gimenez about Gomes after the game. “He literally cannot get a break.”
As for the rest of the game, the Indians jumped out to an early lead and slowly added to it while Josh Tomlin used his stopper magic to prevent another losing streak for the Tribe. He pitched under pressure some in the first few innings, as two reached in the first and second and a runner got to third with two outs in the third inning, but settled in come the middle innings.
Meanwhile, his offense gave him some cushion in the second, when Mike Napoli sent the first pitch of the inning from Gibson into the second deck in left field to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead. His 20th homer of the season tied him with Carlos Santana for the team lead and are the most for the right-handed slugger since hitting 23 in 2013.
After Gomes doubled and Jason Kipnis walked in the third, the two were stranded in scoring position on a groundout by Francisco Lindor. They stranded another in scoring position in the fourth when Lonnie Chisenhall singled and stole second, but Tyler Naquin struck out swinging.
The same would not happen in the fifth, as the Indians put together a two-out rally to expand their lead. Santana singled to right to extend his hitting streak and Kipnis singled to left, moving Santana into scoring position. Lindor singled into center, scoring the charging Santana to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
Gomes’ replacement, Gimenez, made good use of his added playing time in the sixth inning as the Indians put the game out of reach, again with two outs. Chisenhall singled with one out, but was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder from Naquin. Abraham Almonte hit a deep drive to center that bounced off the warning track and into the bullpen. Had the ball stayed in the yard, Naquin would have scored easily on the two-out hit, but instead, he had to go back to third. Gimenez made it a moot point as he jumped on an off-speed pitch and lined a single to left, scoring both runners and doubling the Cleveland advantage to 4-0.
Tomlin made his customary solo home run oops in the sixth, when Max Kepler cut on an inside pitch and deposited it high into the seats in right for the Twins’ lone run of the game. The solo shot, his second of the season, made it 4-1.
The Indians would add two more runs on solo homers, as Naquin went deep to center in the eighth and Kipnis followed suit in the ninth with a blast to make it 6-1.
Tomlin left with two outs in the bottom of the eighth after giving up a double to left to Brian Dozier. Austin Adams came on and struck out Kepler to end the inning. He remained on and worked a 1-2-3 ninth to end the series.
The Indians (54-37) got back into the win column and took their first series from the Twins (33-58) this season. They doubled their win total from their first six games against them and have pulled to 4-5 against Minnesota on the season. Their lead in the AL Central remained at six and a half games over the second place Tigers, as Detroit dealt the Kansas City Royals a walk-off defeat.
TOMLIN STOPS THE TWINS IN THEIR TRACKS
Tomlin (10-2, 3.34 ERA) once again gave the Indians everything that they needed after an extra inning game while in essence running a six-man bullpen. He lasted seven and two-thirds innings, allowing one run on the solo Kepler homer and six hits in total. He walked one and struck out four, throwing 74 of 107 pitches for strikes on the afternoon.
With his tenth win, Tomlin has reached double digits in victories for just the second time in his career. The last was in 2011, when he won a career-high 12 games. He also improved to 13-1 in his last 18 games following a Cleveland loss.
GIBSON GIVES TWINS SIX
Gibson (2-6, 5.12) gave the Twins six innings, something that they needed after exhausting all but one bullpen arm in their walk-off victory on Saturday night. He allowed four runs, with the final two in the sixth by Gimenez proving to be a knockout punch. He walked one and struck out four on the afternoon.
Reliever Neil Ramirez, the only Twins bullpen arm not to work on Saturday, worked three innings, giving up three hits and the two solo homers to Naquin and Kipnis to put the game out of reach.
SANTANA’S STREAK HITS 14
With his single in the fifth inning, the Indians’ Santana extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games.
SHUTTING DOWN THE ALL-STAR
All-Star representative Eduardo Nunez was again held in check by the Indians pitching staff in the series. Coming in hitting just .158 against Cleveland this season (3-for-19 with two singles, a homer, one run, and three RBI), he did little better, going 2-for-14 (.143) with two singles, two strikeouts and one run scored.
For the season with three series remaining, Nunez is hitting .152 (5-for-33) against Indians pitching.
HUNTER TO THE DL
In addition to the possible extended loss of Gomes, the Indians had to place reliever Tommy Hunter on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a non-displaced fracture in his lower back. He was injured during the All-Star break when he tripped on a stair while carrying his child. He hurt the back trying to protect the child and was still in discomfort on Saturday when an MRI revealed the fractured bone.
In a corresponding move, the Indians recalled pitcher Cody Anderson from Triple-A Columbus and he will become the next starting pitcher to get work in the bullpen as a relief option for Cleveland as their bullpen woes grow larger. He appeared previously in a relief outing in a walk-off loss to Houston earlier in the season.
BRING ON THE BBQ
The Indians continue their road trip with a three-day layover in Kansas City against the third place Royals. Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.61) will take the ball in Monday’s opener, while Ned Yost and the Royals counter with Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.85).
First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET from Kauffman Stadium.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images