Here are 21 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 5-4 win against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night.
1. The night started with Josh Tomlin, and it started poorly. Tomlin’s nightmarish August continued with him allowing four earned runs in 1 1/2 innings pitched. He didn’t escape the second inning, which marked the shortest start of his career. The first pitch of the night was taken out of the ballpark by Brian Dozier. It was followed by a couple of hits and then four singles in the second inning.
2. Tomlin entered the night with a 10.80 ERA in August and wasn’t able to improve upon that. Essentially, the wheels have just fallen off for him after a terrific start to the year—at one point it was looking like he’d contend for an All-Star spot.
3. Tomlin’s ERAs by month before August: 3.18, 4.06, 2.60, 3.73. Then, all of a sudden, he began to struggle to get through a lineup twice. What was a major stabilizing force in the rotation while Trevor Bauer tried to find himself and Cody Anderson struggled to find the same success he had in 2015 has now become a liability as the Indians continue to lead the division heading into September.
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4. Tomlin has looked at his previous starts but can’t seem to find anything specific that can be attributed to his poor month.
5. Said Tomlin, “Very confusing for me. I've went back and looked at a lot of stuff and I don't see a trend anywhere. I don't see the stuff is not ticking down at all, I actually feel like it's a little bit better than what it was earlier in the year so my cutter is harder. I went back to see if it was flatter or finding barrels a little bit, but it's not really doing that so ... after the All-Star break and early on it was about executing pitches out of the stretch, I wasn't executing pitches and now I am and they are just putting good at-bats on it, they're putting the barrel on it and finding holes and it's definitely a tough stretch and it's frustrating but I can't hang my head down and I have to come back tomorrow and get to work and try to figure this thing out and et better because we have a lot of baseball games to play and we're trying to win every game we can right now. I've got to get better."
6. The Indians are nearing the point of either needing Tomlin to figure something out, or the rotation having to be shaken up. The Indians will only need four starters in the postseason, and if healthy those four will be Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. But Tomlin is needed now, and there’s clearly something that’s been a bit off.
7. Indians manager Terry Francona often talks about how much he loves having Tomlin in the clubhouse, that he’s one of the best guys he’s ever been around and is an easy player to root for because of it. On Tuesday night, Tomlin took full accountability for his recent play, saying he’d understand if Francona made a move. It’s about as accountable as a pitcher can be.
8. Said Tomlin, "I don't know how I could be disappointed about that, I don't. Whatever move he makes I understand. It's not like I'm going out there and throwing eight shutout every time now. I'm struggling. I know I;m struggling. I take full ownership in that. It's my fault. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm anxious to back here tomorrow and try to figure it out. all I can do is not dwell on it, by no means, but come back tomorrow and figure some stuff out. Talk to Mickey, talk to Tito and guys in the rotation and figure out what I'm doing. If I'm getting in a pattern, if I'm not pitching in enough. If I'm throwing too many of this or that. I need to figure it out and figure it out quick. but I understand, whatever he has to do I get it.”
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9. Francona didn’t think making that determination five minutes after the game was a great idea. He said prior to the game that the club wasn’t planning on lengthening out Mike Clevinger, instead being content with how much he’d helped the bullpen. But, in one way or another, Francona’s hand could be forced to either call up a starter once rosters expand on Thursday or look to Clevinger in the rotation. Otherwise, Tomlin and the Indians will have to find something to key in on.
10. Said Francona, “I know he is [beating himself up] too and you know what, we got an off day Thursday. We have the ability to maybe juggle our rotation a little bit. I don’t think five, ten minutes after the game is probably the time to do it, but we’ll sit down and go through it a little bit and see if bumping him back a couple days or whatever… We’ll get it figured out.”
11. But, on Tuesday night, the Indians made the poor start moot. It was in part thanks to a solo home run by Jason Kipnis, a three-run home run by Rajai Davis and an RBI-double by Francisco Lindor.
12. It was also in part thanks to 7 1/3 scoreless innings by the Indians’ bullpen, another stellar night for a group that’s found the next level since Andrew Miller was added into the fold.
13. The Indians’ bullpen worked four scoreless innings in a 0-0 tie in Monday’s 1-0 win in extras. Combined with the 7 1/3 scoreless on Tuesday, they’ve now worked 21 consecutive shutout innings. They’ve also allowed just five runs in the last 47 innings (0.96 ERA) in the last 13 games.
14. It was led by Dan Otero, who threw a season-high 2 2/3 scoreless innings, and Miller, who earned the five-out save. Otero has been the Indians’ unsung hero ahead of Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and now Miller. His ERA dipped to 1.25, second in the majors among relievers.
15. Said Otero on the bullpen as a whole, “We take pride in being ready every day to pitch. It’s not just nights like tonight, but it’s every night. I think we’ve kind of shown that the last couple weeks, that we’ve turned a corner I think down there and as a unit, we’ve done a good job. Tonight was one of those nights we were asked to throw quite a few innings and it was our job to keep the game close and everybody did a great job. armstrong came in and got out of the jam in the second, that could have led to a big inning. And then Mac did his thing, playing hacky sack with the ball, catching it. And then obviously Shaw and Miller did their thing, I think the last nine outs between the two of them. So that was awesome.”
16. Otero also recorded what, in retrospect, might have been the biggest out of the game. Otero entered with one out and the bases loaded in the third inning, and with the Indians trying to keep it to a 4-4 tie. Needing a double play, Logan Schafer drilled a ball right near Otero’s head. He caught it and threw to second for an inning-ending double play. An inning later, the Indians took the lead and held on.
17. Francona asked for a double play. It just wasn’t how the Indians drew it up. Said Francona, “That was a big out. That goes as a double play. I told when I brought him in, ‘Go get you a double play,’ but I’m not sure I really saw it like that. That’s happened a couple times because he lands on balance, he is going to catch some of those.”
18. Added Otero, “He needs to be more specific. I was trying to get the ground ball at somebody, but it happened to be a line drive at my face. I got my head out of the way and snagged it. I looked around and didn’t know where it throw it, saw the guy running to third so I was like, ‘All right, I’ll lob it to Lindor and hopefully they can catch it and step on second before he gets there.’”
19. Otero’s might have been the bigger play, but it wasn’t the best. That was reserved for Zach McAllister, who made a kick-save of a catch on another come-backer, this one off the bat of Kurt Suzuki.
Kick-save and a beauty: https://t.co/j7g6bUI9MP pic.twitter.com/MZuh5M2ZIQ
— MLB (@MLB) August 31, 2016
20. McAllister kicked his leg, flipped the ball up with it and caught it for an out. Said McAllister, “That was just reaction. There's nothing more than that. It's a ball coming back at you and hopefully you either stop it and make the play, or it goes through the middle and it's probably a base hit. It just worked in my favor tonight.”
21. Otero joked that it was due to McAllister and Clevinger playing hacky sack before games: “It was great. I thought Kipnis’ reaction in the background was the best, I think he just threw his hands up in the air. I think he’s been practicing hacky sack with Clevinger before the games. So I think we can thank Clev for that one, too.”