June 28, 2014: Indians 5, Mariners 0
LGT Recap * MLB recap * Box Score
This is the second straight season I have picked a game that was in Seattle. Sadly, this year I was not in attendance for the June 28 virtuoso performance by Josh Tomlin.
But as I live in the Pacific Northwest, this game was televised locally in my area. And as a good portion of you were already heading to bed, not willing to watch a west coast late start, many of you missed probably the best pitched game of the year, and from the most unheralded of sources.
After losing the series opener the night before, the expectation of a series evening win was the furthest thing from my mind as Tomlin took the hill against Roenis Elias. Tomlin had been inserted into the rotation at the beginning of May when Carlos Carrasco had been banished to the bullpen. His first seven starts were alright but he had given up six long balls. The two starts previous to this one he had given up five earned runs in each, so this might was likely his last chance at sticking in the rotation.
The game opened with a one out double by Asdrubal Cabrera, an RBI single by Michael Brantley and an RBI double by Carlos Santana that got the Tribe out to an early 2-0 lead in the first. Tomlin dispatched the side in order with a called third strike on Robinson Cano as the final out.
In the second, Tomlin retired the Mariners in order again, with Kyle Seager lining out to deep right. Michael Saunders tried for a bunt single on the first pitch of the third, but Tomlin threw him out and got the next two batters on six pitches. In the fourth, James Jones tried for another bunt single but Tomlin was up to the task again and he finished the inning perfect again, with Cano striking out for the second time. It was here that I got my hopes up for the Tribe's first no-hitter since Len Barker's 1981 perfect game (yes it has been that long).
In the fifth, Michael Bourn's RBI double and a Droobs' sacrifice fly doubled the score. But my hopes for a perfect game/no-hitter was quickly squashed when Seager rapped a single to left-center. Logan Morrison almost took Tomlin deep, but Ryan Raburn tracked it down. Zunino struck out swinging before a wild pitch and a Yan Gomes throwing error moved Seager over to third. But Saunders flailed at strike three to up Tomlin's total to five.
Gomes atoned for his error in the sixth by homering to left-center making it 5-0. Even with the no-no gone, it felt like Tomlin was on the verge of something special, so I was still planted on my couch, watching. Tomlin shook off the loss of the no-no by going right back to work. Dustin Ackley hit a weak grounder to first, Brad Miller struck out, and Endy Chavez lined out to deep left to end the sixth.
In the seventh, Tomlin struck out Jones on three pitches and Cano grounded out back to the box. Seager, who hadn't been fooled all night, worked a full count before striking out swinging. Morrison also worked a full count to lead off the eight but went down looking. Then Tomlin stuck out both Zunino and Saunders swinging on three pitches each. This was his only three strikeout inning, and with it coming that late in the game, he was pitching like an ace.
Heading to the ninth, Tomlin was just one man over the minimum, had struck out eleven and was at just 98 pitches. Ackley worked another full count before grounding out to Tomlin. Miller drove one to deep left-center that Bourn tracked down and Chavez ended the game by grounding to Nick Swisher at first, unassisted.
Tomlin's stats for the game are ones that are rarely matched. Of his 111 pitches, 77 were strikes, with 15 of the swing and miss variety and 25 called. Four of his eleven strikeouts were looking. He even recorded three putouts covering first and had the two assists on the bunt attempts. His GameScore of 96 was best for the Indians in 2014 (over both of the Kluber and Carrasco Maddux's) and tops in the AL and tied for fourth best in all of baseball. In fact, since 1968, only four hurlers have matched or beaten Tomlin's 96: Gaylord Perry's 96 (1972-10-1 11 inning game vs the Yankees); Bartolo Colon's 97 (2000-09-18 1 hit, 12 K vs the Yankees); Len Barker's 98 (1981-05-15 perfect game vs the Rangers); and Dennis Eckersley's 98 (1977-05-30 no hitter, one walk vs the Angels).
The promise of Tomlin turning the turning corner was short lived as he had five more poor starts through August 5 and subsequently banished to be the long man in the pen. But he now has a game that he can always tell his grandkids about and is forever etched in RetroSheet.