For the second straight night, the Indians forced a Tampa Bay start out early, but couldn't do a thing against the Rays bullpen. Unfortunately, this time they were trailing when the bullpen entered the game.
It could have been worse for Josh Tomlin. The Indians right-hander hadn't pitched since July 5th, and rust showed early on. He allowed three hits and a walk in the first inning, including a two-run homer off the bat of Carlos Pena, and trailed 3-0 after the inning. But he settled down somewhat, limited the Rays to four hits and one run in his final 4.2 innings. Tomlin right now is the weak link in the starting staff, and would be the one demoted if the Indians acquire a starter, but in his last two outings, both against the Rays, he's pitched better. Part of that could be due to the weak lineups the Rays threw out against him, though.
The Indians at first seemed to have no chance against young left-hander Matt Moore, but the second time through the lineup they started to get to him. Moore wouldn't seem the kind of pitcher who would be exposed the second and third times through the order; he has excellent stuff, including a very good fastball. But he's had trouble this season in the middle innings, and that trend continued tonight. Moore's problems began in the fourth, when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with the Tribe's first hit of the night. Then Moore couldn't throw strikes, walking Kipnis and Brantley to load the bases with nobody out. Jose Lopez hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Cabrera and move Kipnis to third, but Carlos Santana would strike out and Shelley Duncan flew out to cut short the rally. The Indians would get another run off Moore in the fifth, but that would be their last shot at him, as Joe Maddon would again rely on his bullpen to log long innings.
After the two starters left, neither team would score in 7.1 innings of combined relief work. Unfortunately, as the Indians were behind when this stalemate began, they would end up losing the game. The Indians brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth in the form of Travis Hafner, but Pronk would just get under a Fernando Rodney pitch, and the resulting fly ball would end the game.
Michael Brantley collected another two walks on the night; apparently the word has gotten around that he's smacking anything in the strike zone, and he's reacting well by taking walks. He's already walked 30 times on the season, just 4 shy of his total all of last year, and he's doing this in addition to cutting down on his strikeouts dramatically (76 in 496 PA last year, 34 in 364 PA this year). Brantley is starting to look like the player he was in the minors, but with decent power. I'm liking what I'm seeing.