Cueto, Reds shutdown Tribe for 9-2 win
Tomlin struggles continue; bizarre play in seventh kills Indians rally
CLEVELAND—It was a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly Tuesday at Progressive Field.
Well, mostly the bad and the ugly.
Outscored 8-1 over the final eight innings, the Indians snapped their four-game win streak, falling to the Reds, 9-2.
The bad came from Tribe starter Josh Tomlin (5-8, 4.75 ERA), making his first start after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus prior to the ballgame.
It was far from a good impression, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings.
The big blow was a three-run homer off the bat of Cincinnati third baseman Ramon Santiago in the second inning, his first long ball of the season.
“That was a big inning,” Tomlin said. “The three-run homer to Santiago I just trying to go with a two-seamer down and away and it just stayed over the plate. That kind of changed the momentum of the game and that’s on me. That can’t happen.”
Since Tomlin’s one-hit complete game shutout against Seattle back on June 28, the right-hander drops to 0-3 with a 7.08 ERA in his last five starts.
“My main goal in the game is to not, not give up home runs,” he said. “It’s to go as deep in a game as I can. I’m very aware of how much I’ve struggled the past however many starts, but now it’s time to figure something out and get a lot better.”
The long ball has been a problem for Tomlin all season long, as Santiago’s homer was the seventh he served up in his last five starts. His 17 home runs on the year are the most in the majors among pitchers with 90 or fewer innings.
Johnny Cueto (13-6, 2.04 ERA) barely had any problems of his Tuesday, tossing a complete game victory on 117 pitches. The Reds ace gave up just two runs on five hits against Cleveland, walking two and striking out six.
“Like a lot of good pitchers, if you don’t get them early and let them settle in, they’ll give you fits,” Francona said. “He had a very good feel for his pitches.”
Offensively, Indians hitters would rattle Cueto for a run in the bottom half of the first. Mike Aviles lined a one-out double down the left field line, setting the stage for Michael Brantley to drive him home on a RBI single.
Then, things just got downright ugly.
After a Jay Bruce RBI knock off Tomlin helped the Reds go up 6-1, the Tribe tried to mount a comeback in the seventh.
A leadoff walk to Lonnie Chisenhall and a David Murphy base-hit put runners on first and second with no outs to start the frame. The hot hitting Yan Gomes came through with a RBI double to right field, but not before a bizarre incident unfolded.
As Bruce picked up and threw the ball back into the infield, another ball thrown out of the Cincinnati bullpen by reliever Jumbo Diaz came out onto the field directly in the path of the live ball.
“I was going first to third, so basically my back is to the ball,” Murphy said. “As a player, you’re taught two things, you’re taught to listen to your base coach and to find the ball.”
There was just one problem, Murphy saw the opposite ball on the ground thrown from Diaz that was tipped by bullpen catcher Nilson Antigua. Veering off third base, he was tagged out sliding back into the bag for the out.
“I just didn’t know where the ball came from, if it was from a fan or what,” Murphy said. “It’s unbelievable. As a player I hate making outs on the bases, especially in a situation like that. But I’m not kicking myself, because what do you do?”
“It’s frustrating. My intentions were to stay at third. I just don’t know how to break it down to words.”
“[Crew Chief] Jerry Davis’ explanation was right on, but it wasn’t fun to hear,” Francona said. “You can’t kill a play until the conclusion. At the exact moment, their right-hander threw it over their catcher’s glove and it was perfect timing. It was unfortunate and kind of fluky.”
In relief of Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco battled and looked sharp tossing four innings on 60 pitches. Despite giving up three runs in the ninth, highlighted by a solo homer to Bruce, the right-hander caught the eye of his skipper.
“I thought he was tremendous,” Francona said. “I thought he tired a little at the end, but he saved our bullpen and executed pitches the whole way through. We kind of wanted to have him get a little further. I thought the timing tonight was a good time to get him stretched out.”
Cleveland (57-56) remains 2.5 games in the race for the American League Wild Card spot despite the loss, splitting the season series with Cincy at a game apiece.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe takes a ride down I-71 to Cincinnati to play the final two games in the Battle of Ohio at Great American Ballpark beginning Wednesday. Cleveland starter Danny Salazar (4-4, 4.45 ERA) looks to continue his winning ways against the Reds Mat Latos (3-3, 3.07 ERA) at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
On paper Kluber- Bauer- Salazar- House- Carrasco could become a decent starting rotation.
As for McAllister pitch selection - make him listen to the catcher - or call the pitches from the bench.
Of course, such a ruling would be complicated, would require umpire interpretation, and could lead to teams coming up with errant throws at times when their pitching is struggling and their bullpen is getting taxed. Thus, it's probably not a good solution, but that bizarre play seems too bizarre and too coincidental where I would think about some reaction to such a play occurring in the future, since the Indians didn't have any good options, other than their coaches knowing which ball was the real ball, but I don't think anyone expects two balls on the field at the same time, especially in a ballpark with enclosed bullpens. Thus, it wasn't too surprising that they weren't aware of which ball was the real ball and couldn't alert Murphy whether to stay at 3B or go for home.
1. It'd be nice to see Carrasco get another shot at starting, since I think he was pulled too soon earlier this season. Plus, his value would be maximized in a starting role, especially since closing doesn't seem to be an option in the near future.
2. Something to keep in mind: Both Tomlin and McAllister both misesed significant time last year, and especially Tomlin. It wouldn't surprise me if Tomlin, and possibly McAllister, are already fatigued. Tomlin didn't throw many more innings in 2012, then missed all of last year- so I suspect fatigue is a factor to some extent. He didn't just forget how to pitch- his execution and command haven't been as good, both of which have been staples for him throughout his career, so I suspect fatigue is part of the reasons for his struggles.
It could partly explain McAllister's struggles as well, though he didn't miss all of last year, plus the fact it sounds like there are issues with pitch selection and relying too much on the fastball. Thus, I'm not sure fatigue is as much a factor for McAllister's struggles, but do think Tomlin's struggles are partly related to fatigue. It'd be interesting to see how Tomlin responds next season with a full offseason of working out. McAllister's issues, I think, run deeper. Whether it's the finger injury still playing on his mind/psyche (though he did pitch very well to start the season), or he just got into some bad habits from the latest injury, he needs to get himself righted in terms of command, delivery, and execution on attacking the hitters with all of his pitches, something he did with regularity before the finger injury and to start this season.
3. Was the bullpen door open when Diaz threw that errant pitch? Otherwise, how did that pitch wind up on the field, right at the precise moment when we're attempting to rally, and the game still within reach (being it was 7-1 and it was only the 7th, not 9-2 as it was in the ninth)?
Seems very fishy to me. Personally, I would use it as extra motivation to go down to Cincinnati and take two, since who knows what might have happened if not for that errant throw. Cueto probably doesn't stay in the whole game if the Indians scratch out a few runs there- certainly a possibility. Like I said, hope the Indians use it as added motivation to beat the Reds twice down in Cincy, since I thought that fluke play and errant throw had too many coincidences in terms of timing and the fact Cueto was getting into trouble, with the resulting play largely helping to bail him out and complete the game.