MINNEAPOLIS: Momentum in baseball depends primarily on a team’s starting pitcher.
The Indians probably already knew that; they didn’t have to make the point so decisively. Coming off a dramatic victory over Justin Verlander on Thursday night, the Tribe fell on its sword Friday night by getting routed by the Twins 11-0 at Target Field.
If any fans in Northeast Ohio thought the Indians’ unexpected triumph 24 hours earlier would lead to bigger and better things the next evening, they were sorely disappointed.
“This is one more example that every day is a new day in baseball,” manager Manny Acta said. “There is no such thing as momentum.”
Josh Tomlin couldn’t keep the Twins in check: not in the first inning or the fourth, which is all the innings it took for the Tribe to fall 8-0 behind. Tomlin gave up a three-run homer to Justin Morneau with two outs in the first and yielded five more runs in the fourth, most of them on Josh Willingham’s three-run blast.
“Josh just lacked command,” Acta said. “There were too many pitches right down the middle and up in the zone. The left-handers were 8-of-16 against him. I’m glad this game only counted as one.”
Willingham’s home run, his 26th of the season — more than double the total of any Tribe batsmen — was the unkindest cut of all, because around Cleveland he is known as the right-handed batter the Indians didn’t sign because he wanted a three-year contract, and the front office wouldn’t budge from two. Michael Stanley might write a song about it.
Not that Friday night’s game was about Willingham, who also singled and amassed four RBI. This was about Tomlin and his continuing problems. Either a stranger has inhabited his uniform all season or he needs to make some serious changes.
“You don’t want to have a season like this,” Tomlin said. “You can say that stuff happens every now and then, and that everybody has a bad year, but that’s not enough to say.
“You want to keep things going. Our win last night was huge, and for me to put the guys in a hole like that was not a good thing.”
His inconsistency is becoming maddeningly consistent.
In his previous start, Tomlin pitched six innings and gave up two runs to the Orioles; in the one before that, he yielded four runs in 5? innings against the Rays, and four starts back he allowed only one run in seven innings to Tampa Bay. But his record (5-8) and earned-run average (5.87) tell you that he has had more bad starts than good starts.
The question is how long Acta can keep Tomlin in the rotation.
“We have to sit down and talk and figure things out,” the manager said. “We have to make things better around here. We’ll evaluate all our options. I’m not going to sit here and say that Josh won’t start in five days.”
Then Acta added the kicker: “He’s not the only one.”
To be fair, Tomlin would have been out of the fourth inning without a run being scored had second baseman Jason Kipnis stabbed Ben Revere’s ground ball up the middle with two on and two out.
Kipnis got to the spot in time and stopped the ball with his glove, but the ball did not roll into his glove, and it was ruled a hit. One run scored on the play, and Joe Mauer followed with an RBI single just ahead of Willingham’s homer.
“That was a tough play,” Acta said. “Jason has been making every play. But Revere is pretty fast, and that might have had something to do with it. Jason usually makes that play; he’s been terrific defensively.”
If Jeremy Accardo’s relief appearance was designed to distract the fans’ attention from Tomlin, it was a total success. Accardo pitched the fifth and sixth innings and allowed seven base runners and three more runs.
It is easy enough to say that the Indians’ lack of offense made Tomlin’s faulty performance irrelevant. But who knows what might have transpired if Tomlin had kept it close.
Travis Hafner lined a single to center with two outs in the fifth inning. Jose Lopez followed with another single, which was all the Indians got until the eighth, when Hafner singled off one of starter Scott Diamond’s body parts.
Diamond (9-4, 2.88 ERA) stayed in the game and pitched all nine innings, giving up only the three singles. He did not walk anyone and struck out six, doing what Verlander couldn’t do.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.