CLEVELAND — Josh Tomlin could have tried to stay away from his locker and wait until reporters left. Instead, he met things head on.
After the Indians fell behind 4-0 to Detroit in the first inning, they fought back to tie it and send it into extra innings, only to lose 11-4 in 11 innings on Thursday night at Progressive Field. Tomlin was the pitcher when it all fell apart, allowing five runs on three hits in one-third of an inning.
"The guys fought back. It was a hell of a game," Tomlin said. "The guys that came in kept it close and I came in there and then they blew it up off of me. It’s very disappointing."
After going through his prime bullpen arms, Terry Francona didn’t have many good options left. The only right-handers that were remaining in the 11th were Tomlin, Austin Adams (14.54 ERA), Bryan Price (who was just called up on Monday) and Zach McAllister (who is still transitioning to the bullpen).
Francona though did have confidence in Tomlin based on his prior matchups against the Tigers. The only Detroit hitter who had given Tomlin problems in the past was Ian Klinsler.
Tomlin though was working behind from the start. Rajai Davis drew a walk, Kinsler singled and Ezequiel Carrera was intentionally walked to load the bases. Instead of facing Miguel Cabrera, Tomlin faced Eugenio Suarez, who had come on in the 10th as a pinch-runner. Suarez though did Miggy-like damage with a two-run single.
Victor Martinez was 0 for 8 against Tomlin but he put it away with a three-run shot to right to make it 9-4. It was Martinez’s sixth homer against the Indians at Progressive Field this season, which is the most by an opposing player here since Kansas City’s Jermaine Dye also had six in 1999.
"Everything was up that they hit. The pitch to Victor just didn’t get in enough," Tomlin said. "My job is to go out there and get outs. He (Francona) put me in to get outs and I didn’t do it."
Since being moved to the bullpen, Tomlin has made six appearances and allowed seven runs in the past three (3 1/3 innings pitched). Francona said that he has noticed Tomlin struggle with his curveball and that there hasn’t been as much on his cutter but Tomlin wasn’t about to rationalize his struggles or say that the switch has affected him.
"It hasn’t been difficult at all. They let me know after the inning’s over with that I get the ball and I get my long tosses in just like I would if I was starting," Tomlin said. "It’s not really a big transition for me. Tonight was just one of those nights where they beat me."
The Indians got into an early hole because for the third time in less than a month Trevor Bauer had a rough first inning. The right-hander allowed four runs on four hits. Bauer has a first-inning ERA of 6.55, which is ninth-highest in the Majors. In his remaining 4 2/3 innings Bauer allowed only two hits.
After getting one in the fourth and two in the sixth, the Tribe tied it in the seventh on a Michael Brantley double which drove in Michael Bourn. Brantley had two of the seven hits and Yan Gomes drove in two.
The Indians fought for three weeks to make September meaningful. In the course of four days, any momentum gained has been thwarted. With the Tigers taking three of four, the Indians are five back for the second wild card and six in the division. At this point last year they were 3 1/2 back in the Wild Card.
The White Sox come in for three games starting Friday. Cleveland has won four of six against Chicago here this season but American League ERA leader Chris Sale (11-3, 2.11) is on the hill for the opener. After the White Sox, there is a makeup game on Monday against the Angels before the homestand closes with three against the Twins.
Even if the Indians can go at least 5-2 the rest of the homestand, not gaining at least a split against Detroit might have added one more hurdle that might be too much to overcome.
"They’ll be OK. There’s nothing else to do," Francona said. "We’ve got Sale and that’s no day at the beach. They’ll come out and play."