PHOENIX: When they get home late tonight, Tribe players probably will be asking themselves and their wives, “”Does any starter in NL have an earned-run average under 3.50?’’
A better question Tuesday night was this: “”Is there a way we can face J.J. Putz every time we‘re losing in the ninth?’’
For the second night in a row, the Diamondbacks’ closer made a mess of the ninth inning. Trying to preserve a 4-4 tie Monday night, Putz gave up a game-winning home run to Orlando Cabrera.
Tuesday night, Putz went to the mound in the ninth with a 4-2 lead but walked Cabrera then gave up a titanic home run to Carlos Santana, who raised his season total to 11.
“”I was looking for a fastball in, and that’s what he threw,’’ Santana said.
But Santana’s long drive was only a tease; the Diamondbacks rallied in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-4 win.
Tony Sipp walked leadoff batter Ryan Roberts, who stole second and third (Sipp barely looked at him) as Xavier Nady struck out. Willie Bloomquist pinch hit and lined to Travis Buck in right, but Wily Mo Pena homered on the second pitch for the win.
Josh Tomlin not only drew the start for the Indians, he became a valuable part of the lineup. He came to the plate in the third inning with the goal of sacrificing Shelley Duncan -- who led off with a double -- to third base.
Instead, starter Daniel Hudson tried to anticipate the direction the bunt would go and was out of position when it rolled to the left of the mound. Tomlin was credited with the first hit of his major-league career.
Duncan, of course, reached third, from where he scored on Michael Brantley’s double-play grounder. Obviously, that was not the Tribe’s play of choice, but the way the Indians have struggled to score the past month, there was high-fiving galore in the dugout.
Tomlin wasn’t finished using his bat. In the fifth inning, Lonnie Chisenhall ripped a one-out double to right field, but Duncan followed with a fly ball that seemed to abort the rally, inasmuch as the pitcher was due at the plate.
But Tomlin crossed up the conventional wisdom by lining a single to center to score Duncan and give the Tribe a 2-0 lead. It was Tomlin’s first career RBI.
“”They got me the ball for the first hit and the first RBI,’’ said Tomlin, who hadn’t been to the plate since his junior year of college, where he played third, second and short. “”I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball. I didn’t want to strike out. Just make contact and see what happened.’’
As usual, Tomlin performed with aplomb on the mound. Through four innings, he gave up two hits, but with two outs in the fifth, he allowed a triple to Gerardo Parra that bounced off the glove of Grady Sizemore, who made a long run to reach the ball on the center field track.
Hudson (3.49 ERA) then raised his batting average to .303 (higher than anyone in the Tribe lineup) by doubling home Parra next to trim the Arizona deficit to one run. The Tribe’s lead disappeared entirely in the sixth, when Tomlin gave up a leadoff home run to Kelly Johnson, who has 13 for the year.
Of the double to Hudson, Tomlin said, “”I was throwing everything at him. I didn’t want to walk him (the count was 3-and-2). The guy’s a good hitter. He’s no slouch with the bat.’’
Tomlin retired the next six batters without incident to complete the seventh inning. Using 88 pitches, he gave up five hits, walked none and struck out four. He tied Daisuke Matsuzaka’s major league record for consecutive five-inning plus appearances at the start of a career with 28.
“”He threw very good and he hit very good,’’ Santana said. “”This was the first time I saw him hit.’’
Rafael Perez started the eighth and quickly gave up the lead. Parra led off with a sharp single to center, Hudson bunted him to second and Johnson singled him home. Johnson reached second on the throw to the plate, and Joe Smith, relieving Perez, gave up an RBI single to Justin Upton.
The Diamondbacks’ starter this afternoon, Zach Duke, has a 5.73 ERA. Must be a mistake.