CLEVELAND (AP) — It’s taken longer, much longer than expected. But after four shaky months, the Cleveland Indians may be finally hitting their stride.
Josh Tomlin pitched six efficient innings, Carlos Santana homered twice and the Indians won their fourth straight, 6-2 over the tumbling Cincinnati Reds on Monday night in the makeup of a May 25 rainout.
Tomlin (7-9) gave up two homers but stayed in the strike zone and won his third straight start. Cleveland’s solid bullpen did its part as well, with Andrew Miller working two innings and Cody Allen finishing up.
Santana homered in the seventh and eighth as the defending American League champions, who came stumbling home from a 1-5 road trip, moved over .500 (25-24) at Progressive Field for the first time since winning their home opener on April 11.
“You’ve got to have a short memory in baseball,” said Tomlin, who won his third start in a row. “Baseball is a game of failure in every aspect. It’s good to understand what the road trip was and understand we needed to be better and got here, got home, and we’ve played pretty good baseball so far.”
Cleveland’s Roberto Perez snapped a 1-1 tie in the fifth with an RBI double off Reds starter Tim Adleman (5-8), who lost his fourth straight start.
Scooter Gennett and Zack Cozart hit solo shots for Cincinnati, just 2-9 since the All-Star break.
“You try to find ways to get better, but you can’t reinvent the wheel,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “This is our ballclub.”
Tomlin’s solid performance — he threw 49 of 72 pitches for strikes — was another positive for the Indians, who are waiting for one of their starters in the back end of their rotation to step up. On Saturday, Danny Salazar returned from a stint in the minors to allow just one hit in seven innings.
Those outings could influence whether the Indians’ front office tries to trade for another front-line starter before the July 31 trading deadline.
“When he’s going good, that’s what he can do,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Tomlin, who was just 2-6 in May and June. “Those were six really good innings.”
Tomlin was dominant during one stretch, striking out six straight from the second to the fourth and allowing just one hit until the fifth.
“It was just the execution of pitches,” Tomlin said. “That’s a pretty good-hitting team over there. I think the two pitches I didn’t execute were hit for home runs and the other ones were hit pretty hard in the gap somewhere and our defense made great plays on them.
“I never try to get strikeouts. I don’t know how people can get as many as the (Corey) Klubers of the world, but it was kind of nice to get those, for sure.”
Santana homered from both sides of the plate for the fourth time in his career. He’s batting .333 (18 of 54) with 11 RBIs in 15 game this month.
And while he’s only hitting .241, the DH has traditionally gotten stronger in the second half.
“He doesn’t wear down,” Francona said. “It’s like the more at-bats he gets, the better he is. That’s really welcome because he’ll play a huge part in us going forward.”
The Reds have allowed a major league-leading 171 homers. Cincinnati’s pitchers have surrendered 25 homers in the past 11 games.
HOORAY FOR HAMILTON
Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton recorded his major league-leading ninth assist in the first inning, catching a fly and doubling Francisco Lindor off first with a strong throw. Hamilton is batting .386 since the All-Star break and leads the majors with 43 stolen bases.
Reds: RHP Anthony Desclafani (sprained elbow ligament) made his first minor league rehab appearance in the Arizona rookie league Sunday, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Indians: OF Lonnie Chisenhall (strained right calf) and 2B Jason Kipnis (strained right hamstring) both took batting practice for the first time since getting hurt. They will gradually increase their baseball activities, but no timetable has been set for their return. … OF Austin Jackson (strained left quadriceps) is expected to be activated from the DL on Tuesday.
Reds: Rookie RHP Luis Castillo starts a series opener at Yankee Stadium. Castillo has pitched six innings in each of his last two starts, but lost both.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger, who has won his last three decisions, starts the opener of a three-game series against the Angels. He was acquired from Los Angeles for pitcher Vinnie Pestano in 2014.
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