ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 8: Josh Tomlin #43 of the Cleveland Indians throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter at Busch Stadium on June 8, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Has Josh Tomlin been pitching long enough where a start like this can be called "vintage" Josh Tomlin? There was a five-pitch inning, including a single. He did walk a batter, but he ended his seven inning outing having thrown 68% of his pitches for strikes. And he took only 76 pitches to get through seven innings - that's like three innings of a bad Ubaldo Jimenez start. By the time St. Louis figured him out, the Indians were up 6-0.
The Cardinals seemed to come to the plate with a strategy of swinging early in the count, but that backfired because Tomlin was hitting his spots. He threw 18 pitches in the first inning, and no more 13 pitches in an inning the rest way. That kind of efficiency is usually reserved for a ground-ball pitcher, but Tomlin isn't one, which makes outings like this so fascinating. Normally you can't throw that many strikes with a fastball topping out in the high 80s and get outs in a major league game, but Tomlin's made this a common occurrence in his three-year career.
The Cardinals' pitcher, LGFT Jake Westbrook, wasn't hitting his spots, and by that I mean that his sinker wasn't sinking, and a low-90s fastball on a flat plane in the middle of the plate is going to get pounded. Carlos Santana, who has been fed a steady diet of changeups by AL pitchers, had to be salivating as he saw a flat Westbrook sinker in the first inning, and he knocked the ball off the top of the left wall. His double drove in the first Tribe run of the game. Michael Brantley would drive in another run on a groundout, and the Indians, used to falling behind early lately, now jumped on an opposing team.
In the fourth, the Indians scored because of excellent base running. Santana walked to start the inning, then Brantley knocked a single through the right side. Damon then hit a grounder to the second baseman, but he beat out the attempted double play. The Casey Kotchman hit another ball to the second baseman; Damon held up to let the ball get past him, then scampered past the attempted tag so that the Cardinals could only get one out on the play, which allowed Santana to score from third.
An error in the fifth allowed the Indians to score another run. First baseman Allen Craig flat dropped the ball while trying to shovel the ball to Westbrook, allowing Choo to reach base, and the next two batters hit solid singles. Westbrook was visibly frustrated both after the error and after Jason Kipnis hit the RBI single.
The Tribe scoring was capped with Johnny Damon's two-run homer in the eighth off reliever Fernando Salas. That allowed the Indians to finish the game with Joe Smith and Nick Hagadone instead of Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, as the Cardinals had scored twice in the bottom of the seventh, cut the led to two runs.