Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – The Twins were not simply one run better than the Indians on Friday, but one pitch.
The classic “sinker that didn’t sink” from Josh Tomlin was taken deep off of the bat of Miguel Sano, the best hitter in the American League at the moment that doesn’t share his name with a fish. That was the difference.
As much as fans are going to want to pin their anger on the Tribe offense, and justifiably so after 8-out-of-10 games with three runs or less, the story of the game was Tomlin. The right-hander has turned a handful of starts that had armchair managers calling for his release into a respectable start to the season.
Since his second start of the season, Tomlin is averaging a quality start, turning in 32 innings and allowing 12 runs in that span.
“We’ve seen him get in runs like this where he can be pretty good,” Manager Terry Francona said. “He was tremendous. The third hitter of the game hits a first-pitch fastball opposite field for a home run, and they made it stand up. I mean, he pitched – he’s been pitching good.”
Those home runs, the ones that certain writers have spent considerable time dissecting, they’ve gone away for the most part. Sano’s game winner was the second homer Tomlin has allowed in a month, both solo shots.
Tomlin said that he was having trouble early on because of his pitches running towards the middle of the plate when he missed, but those woes have seemed to go away over time.
“It leaks back to the middle of the plate when I’m trying to go away to righties, or in to lefties and it leaks back to the middle of the plate,” he said. “These are big league hitters. You can’t make that many mistakes to guys. Fortunately enough, these last couple starts, I’ve been able to kind of hone that in a little bit and have been able to locate better.”
Tomlin, and pitchers of the like, will always be counted out. The stature is not ideal, the velocity is not ideal, and giving up handfuls of home runs will never be ideal.
But he has hung around the league for much longer than most starters, and when he gets locates, he helps teams win. The team just needs to score at least one run.
“I mean, that’s probably why he gives up the home runs, because he’s around the plate so much,” Francona said. “But when he is going good, it’s quick, he doesn’t beat himself, he fields his position, all the things you talk about. Then when he is changing speeds like that, he is terrific.”
“I keep coming back to that word ‘crisp,’ because that is what I think is the best adjective for when he’s throwing good,” he added. “You can take the gun and throw it away, but they have to respect the fastball in because he can get it in there, and he can throw it for a strike. Off of that comes the cutter or the curveball and it becomes so effective.”