Josh Tomlin didn't make the rotation out of the Spring Training because of a logjam of starters in the high minors. The Columbus rotation.Suffice to say the Indians still liked him as a starter; he had struck out 7.8/9 and walked 1.7/9 in Akron the previous season, and that wasn't a fluke. But Tomlin, even though he'd made it to the highest level of the minors, had quite a few starters to climb over to get to the majors. He wasn't on the 40-man roster, a major obstacle to overcome when most of his competition (Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Laffey, Hector Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez) was already on the roster. But the 25-year-old made his way into the Clipper rotation, churned out excellent start after excellent start, and when the Indians needed a starter to face the New York Yankees, they made room for him.
Tomlin's stuff is decent: his fastball topped out at 93, but generally sat at 90 mph tonight, and has a nice low-80s changeup, along with a slider and a curve. His pitches weren't straight (his fastball looked like it moved into left-handers), which is actually more of an asset than an extra mph or two on the fastball. But what separates the prospects from the major-league pitchers is location, and Tomlin lived on the corners all night. He's a fly-ball pitcher, so those corners tended to be the upper two corners in the strike zone, though he kept hitters from sitting on the waist-high fastball with a grounder-inducing change. More importantly, he was almost always pitching from ahead; New York's veteran lineup eats nibblers for lunch, but tonight they seemed on their heels swinging against Tomlin all night. And he didn't just look good the first or second times through the lineup; he was getting the same kind of easy outs in the seventh inning that he got when the Yankees first saw him. He only gave up three hits, and was on pace to finish the game, leaving in the eighth having thrown just 93 pitches.
His counterpart was trying to win his 150th game; by the time C.C. Sabathia was 25, he'd already pitched six full seasons in the majors. But on this night it was the $23M pitcher who struggled to make it through innings, including a long sixth inning that gave the Indians some breathing room. After Matt LaPorta doubled home Austin Kearns from third, the Indians had runners at second and third with just one out. Jason Donald was intentionally walked to set up a double play and bring up Cleveland's #9 hitter, Chris Gimenez. And again, the player making the minimum bested the highest-paid pitcher in the majors, fouling off tough pitches and not offering at a 3-2 breaking ball that dipped out of the zone. Gimenez's run made the score 4-0, and though Sabathia would pitch the seventh, the damage had already been done, for the Yankees were not facing the pathetic group of relievers who imploded in New York. Rafael Perez and Joe Smith combined to induce three grounders to the right side of the infield to quell a minor uprising in the eighth, and Chris Perez gracefully handled a much more difficult jam, retiring Swisher, Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez (who was and is sitting on 599 home runs) in the ninth, all three batters representing the tying run when they hit.
|Highest WPA||Lowest WPA|
|Josh Tomlin||.343||Trevor Crowe||-.110|
|Shin-Soo Choo||.129||Shelley Duncan||-.100|
|Austin Kearns||.066||Jason Donald||-.066|