By Jonathan Peterlin
CHICAGO (92.3 The Fan) – As Cubs fans cheered “Go Cubs Go” bellowing out their postgame ritual, the tone around the friendly confines had expectedly shifted. From an atmosphere that felt more like a funeral as Game Four broke out, the north siders had reason for hope after Game Five. Cubs fans put the 3-2 series deficit their team faces to the back of their minds for the moment, but the Indians will gladly shift focus to the remaining two games.
Entering the postseason the big question for the Indians was how to win with injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. After five games in the World Series, they’ve done that and are now in a position they would’ve killed for at the start of the playoffs.
Game Six starter Josh Tomlin is anything but a cake walk for the Cubs. He’s already proved that in going 4 2/3 innings allowing just 2 hits in picking up a Game Three win.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, or even a deep start for Tomlin on Tuesday night. His numbers this postseason are great, but he hasn’t thrown any deeper than 5 2/3 innings in those three starts.
The key will be similar in what we have seen before. Get Tomlin close to five innings and turn the game over to the vaunted bullpen, hopefully with a lead.
Indians slugger Mike Napoli on Tomlin getting the ball Tuesday: “We’re confident in what he can do. He’s been pitching well the last couple of months, we’ll see what happens. We’re going to be excited to play in front of our Cleveland fans.”
The hope is that Tomlin can be the player we’ve seen this postseason as opposed to the seldom good, mainly flustered pitcher that wore number forty-three on the back of his jersey in the second half of the season. He’s taken advantage of a different approach in a more balanced attack between sinkers, his cutter, and curveball.
Tomlin used his cutter the most in Game Three throwing the pitch nineteen of the fifty-eight tosses he made. That’s still a noticeable drop from the thirty-eight percent he used the pitch during the regular season while propping up his sinker more. Sinkers take a downward motion to the plate, helping Tomlin induce more ground balls. For a pitcher with a problem giving up the homer, this different approach has worked well.
Josh Tomlin will have the postseason starter’s “get out of jail free card” in tossing on three days. That shouldn’t factor as much as the analysts will let you believe in this case. Tomlin is coming off just fifty-eight pitches and has been taxed at a minimum as the Texas native has thrown just 15 1/3 innings while posting an impressive 1.78 ERA.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor on seeing another game: “We have to play the game hard, we have to outplay them and hopefully we do that on Tuesdsay. I believe in that pitching staff, they’re pretty good. I’m very excited to go back home.“
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. The Cubs counter with an offense that appears to be getting out of a rut while tossing former CY Young winner Jake Arietta, followed by the National League’s leader in ERA this season in Kyle Hendricks.
Mike Napoli knows the team should be happy with the situation at hand though: “Definitely I’d take it. We have two more back home with our crowd in Cleveland, let’s see what happens. We got to look at the positives, they won tonight, but we have two chances to win this thing.”
The Indians didn’t get the job done and close out, but there wasn’t a sense of panic or frustration within the team. They have two more chances and the comfort in playing with house money on Wednesday night.
History is on their side as well. In the sixty-four previous times a World Series has stood at 3-2, the team with the lead wins sixty-seven percent of the time.
Sure, that doesn’t take away that uneasy feeling in your stomach as Game Six approaches. Still, Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber if necessary is the ideal setup for this team at the moment though.
The numbers mirror the story we anecdotally know as both Kluber and Tomlin have outperformed expectations this postseason. Collectively the two have tossed 45 2/3 innings good for a 1.19 ERA while the team has won seven of their eight starts.
Two chances remain, and much like before a pitch was ever thrown in Game five, the Indians still sit in the driver’s seat.