Alex Cobb kept the Indians bats silent for much of the game and Josh Tomlin did much of the opposite to the Rays, allowing two more home runs and six runs in total while unable to finish the third inning as Tampa Bay took the rubber match in Cleveland, 7-4.
The starting pitching woes for the Indians are becoming a growing concern among those watching a staff heavily affected by significant use or injury over the past couple of years. While it seemed as though Tomlin had figured that out in his first two starts in May, he was unable to give the Indians a good or long outing in Wednesday’s afternoon matinee, following the trend of Carlos Carrasco on Monday (injury) and Danny Salazar on Tuesday (ineffectiveness).
The game started out well in Tomlin’s favor, but quickly fell apart.
After Tampa’s hitting machine Corey Dickerson started the ball game with a single, the Indians right-hander, not known for being a strikeout artist on the mound, sat down Kevin Kiermaier, Evan Longoria, and Logan Morrison swinging. He started the second the exact same way with swinging strikeouts of Steven Souza Jr. and Colby Rasmus before Tampa had four straight two-out hits to blow the game open. Tim Beckham and Daniel Robertson each singled and Jesus Sucre drove Beckham in with a double to deep left. Dickerson, making his second at bat in as many innings, sent a 1-0 offering into the seats in right for his third homer in the last two games to make it 4-0 Rays.
Tomlin retired Longoria on one pitch to start the third, but on his next delivery, Morrison made up for his first inning strikeout with a 420-foot blast to center to make it 5-0. After the next batter Souza doubled to center, manager Terry Francona had seen enough and brought Dan Otero on to stop the bleeding. Back-to-back singles from Rasmus and Beckham drove home the sixth run of the game before Otero got a pair of groundouts to get out of the inning, but the damage was done.
The Indians had a big positive in the home half of the third as they got on the board against Cobb. After the first six were set down in order, Lonnie Chisenhall started the inning with a double and Bradley Zimmer got his first Major League hit and RBI with a double the opposite way to left, pushing across Chisenhall to make it 6-1. Roberto Perez lined out before Jason Kipnis singled to left, scoring Zimmer with his first touch of home plate as a base runner, with Kipnis advancing to second on the throw to the plate. Francisco Lindor struck out for the second out before the Indians loaded the bases with a walk to Michael Brantley and a hit by pitch by Carlos Santana. With slumping slugger Edwin Encarnacion looking to break out of his funk at the plate, he instead struck out looking to leave the bases loaded in one of the key moments of the afternoon.
Cleveland reduced the deficit to three in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Lindor singled and scored on a double from Brantley to make it a 6-3 game. Cobb would settle back in and retire the final eight batters that he faced and the Tampa bullpen made it ten straight before a two-out walk in the eighth by Encarnacion, but Jose Ramirez could not drive him home as he flied to center.
Tampa tacked on one final run in the top of the ninth as Sucre hit a bomb to the bleachers in left off of Shawn Armstrong. The home run was the tenth of the series for the Rays, who set a franchise record for homers in a three-game series while also striking out 40 times.
With both clubs staring down off days on Thursday, Rays manager Kevin Cash brought on his closer Alex Colome for the final frame and the Indians put three good swings on the ball in the inning and got one run closer. Chisenhall grounded out before Zimmer added his second hit of the day with a home run to center, the first of his career. Erik Gonzalez, pinch-hitting for Perez, sent a sharply struck ball to right for a fly out for the second out. Kipnis came up with two down and hit one over the fence in center…that was brought back by a perfectly timed jump by the defensive wizard Kiermaier for the final out of the ball game.
Cobb (4-3, 3.67 ERA) went seven quality innings on the afternoon, allowing three runs on six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. His 115 pitches were the most that he had fired since his return in 2016 from Tommy John surgery.
Tomlin (2-5, 6.86) and his good start to May went to the wayside with his third start of less than five full innings on the season. It marked his second shortest start in terms of innings pitched and pitches thrown (with just 51 on Wednesday). Despite the impressive start to the game, striking out five straight batters after the leadoff single, he was victimized by a pair of home runs balls after entering with four allowed through his first seven starts to the season. He finished the game with six runs allowed on seven hits while striking out the five early.
Zimmer was easily the offensive star of the game for Cleveland, driving in the club’s first and last runs on the day. The double was the first hit of his career and of the day as he drove in his first big league RBI in advance of his second run-producing hit in the ninth with his solo home run.
Dickerson had two hits from the leadoff spot for the Rays, as he was 4-for-10 in the final two games of the series after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Monday’s contest. Three of the four hits left the yard to give him nine on the season and he drove in three more runs to push his RBI total to 18 this season. He is hitting .335 on the year in a dramatic turnaround from his disappointing results last season in his first year in Tampa.
The Indians will take a much needed day off on Thursday before another five games on the road. They will open a three-game set in Houston against the American League’s best, the Astros, on Friday. Trevor Bauer is the probable for the Indians against a Houston team that he has had success against in the past. Right-hander Charlie Morton will start for the ‘stros. He has won four straight and K’d 10 Yankees in his last start on Sunday.
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