Some days it is easy to love the Little Cowboy. Josh Tomlin goes up against the Miguel Cabreras and Joey Vottos of the world with marginal stuff and cast-iron courage. He throws strikes, because he'll be damned if he's going to beat himself.
This Dream of the Little Cowboy is threatening to fizzle long before it turns into a summer blockbuster or a fall classic, however. The reality is that Tomlin now stands with an ERA+ of 78. His ostensible breakthrough, 2011, saw an ERA+ of 92. Indians brass and reasonable fans aren't hoping for top-of-the-rotation performance from Tomlin, but he will have to do a lot more before he earns comparisons as, say, a right-handed Jamie Moyer. Tomlin has authored four quality starts in ten starts this season, and more troubling, three so-called "disaster starts" in which the pitcher gives up more runs than innings pitched.
This afternoon's affair in Cincinnati opened with promise, as Shin Soo Choo homered to center and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to right. After a Jason Kipnis groundout, Carlos Santana strode to the plate, probably needing no more than two steps to get from the dugout to the dish, based on that enormous stride he takes while flailing at offspeed pitches. And, as he so often has done in 2012, Santana delivered an RBI... chopper. A productive at bat, as Rick Manning would say, but eventually you'd like your cleanup hitter to produce more than off-balance grounders.
If you think this is unfair to Carlos, keep in mind that Santana's last home run was one month ago. In that time, he has three doubles and has seen his OPS drop 115 points. It is not all about the concussion, either; his plunge began before the concussion, and he has now been one of the league's very worst hitters for the last 30 days. Yes, his 2011 campaign was ebb and flow, but this is looking truly ominous.
Still, a 2-0 lead was a nice start, but Tomlin couldn't make it least more than three batters. Two singles, and then Joey Votto launched a home run 420 feet. Suddenly all the Santana apologists remembered what it looks like to have a truly dominant young bat in the middle of the lineup. In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show earlier in the day, Votto said he prefers playing in Cincinnati compared to the big markets like New York or Boston because he likes to go about his business without silly tabloid headlines every day. The Reds and their fans are wonderfully fortunate to have him.
LGFT Brandon Phillips hit the second home run of the afternoon off Tomlin, and then a few more dings knocked our Little Cowboy out. Choo provided a glimmer of hope with his second home run of the game, cutting the deficit to three runs in the fifth. But as Ryan has astutely noted, the bullpen has routinely failed to keep deficits close. Enter Scott Barnes, cue carnage, exit Scott Barnes, and it's 11-3. At least the entire northeast is basking in perfect weather, and you no longer had a reason to waste your afternoon staring at cathode rays.
The Pirates are next, then the Reds again. Neither team is a great one; in many ways they resemble the Indians, competing in a bad division. Sweeps happen in long seasons. But the Tribe is heading home, and it's time to start cooking before the schedule turns darker.