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Dominant bullpen secures close win over Twins

Tomlin was as bad as expected and the Indians made several costly baserunning outs, but the ‘pen saved the day.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Indians 5, Twins 4

Box score
Tribe improves to 75-56


This was a bit of an odd one, but I’ll happily take the outcome. As expected, Josh Tomlin was a disaster. The bats came alive but multiple costly baserunning errors kept the score closer than it should have been. In the end, it was a a stellar bullpen performance that saved the and helped the Tribe keep pace with a victorious Tigers team.

Tomlin was bad even by Tomlinian standards tonight. He surrendered a homer to Brian Dozier on the first pitch of the game, and it was all downhill from there. The Little Cowboy departed with two outs in the 2nd inning and the Tribe down 4-1. It was the shortest start of Tomlin’s career. Not a good look for a guy who has had, for some reason, the unwavering faith of his manager. Surely now, Josh Tomlin’s days in the rotation must be numbered...

The offense got out to a similarly frustrating start with a first inning that saw the Indians record a double, triple, and a homer... but just one run. If anyone ever asks you "how much can sequencing really affect the outcome of a game?" then simply show them this inning. Rajai Davis got on base with a leadoff double, and appeared to steal 3rd base easily - except that Twins 3rd baseman Miguel Sano appeared to pull Davis’ leg off the bag high enough to get the out call. And wouldn’t luck have it that that kind of play is non-reviewable! So with one out and no one on rather than no outs and a runner on 3rd, Jason Kipnis hit a solo homer rather than a 2-run jack. Franciscos Lindor tripled, but the Tribe couldn’t bring him in and the inning ended in frustration.

Fortunately, Davis made up for his baserunning "error" in the 2nd by demolishing an Andrew Albers meatball for a 3-run bomb. Davis would end up with a fantastic line tonight after slumping recently - a single, a double, a homer, 3 RBI, and a hell of a nice diving catch to end the Twins’ half of the 5th inning.

The Indians took the lead in the 4th on an RBI double by Francisco Lindor, but this was another inning that could’ve been so much more. Chris Gimenez led off the inning with the second of his three (!) walks of the game, but TOOTBLAN’d himself into an out at 3rd base on a Rajai Davis double. Jason Kipnis walked, but was thrown out at home trying to score from 1st on Lindor’s double. This wasn’t so much of a baserunning error, but rather a couple of perfect throws by the Twins defense to cut Kip down. So the Indians finished the 4th with a 5-4 lead that perhaps should have been 8-4. That was the last time they’d score, so the bullpen needed to be lights out to secure the victory.

But "lights out" would be an understatement. Four Tribe relievers combined for 7 13 shutout innings to clean up after Tomlin’s mess and put the Tribe on top. Shawn Amstrong delivered 23 of a scoreless inning, Bryan Shaw delivered 1 13 and Andrew Miller got the save with 1 23 sick nasty innings, including two K’s. Even The Detach got in on the fun with a scoreless inning and this slick kick save:

From The Attach to The Detach to HackyZach? Only time will tell which of those sticks, but I digress...

Despite the multiple great bullpen performances, the hero of the day has to be Dan Otero. Otero inherited a 1st & 2nd with one out situation and worked out of a jam thanks to some slick glove work of his own. Logan Scahfer smoked a ball straight up the middle that Otero snagged in self defense and flipped to Francsico Lindor for the easy double play. Big Game Dan went on to throw two more 1-2-3 innings with two K’s and even earned himself the W for good measure.

As a litmus test for post-season success, this game had some pros and cons. If we can get quality bullpen innings from guys not named Miller or Shaw, that’s a huge plus. Similarly, the bats waking up is a great sign despite the frustrations on the basepaths. Tomlin’s implosion is a negative at first glance, but could be a silver lining if it finally prompts Tito to pull him out of the rotation. In the short term, though, this was a much-needed win to keep the Tribe’s lead at 4.5 games, thanks to the Tigers’ comeback victory against a dreadful Chicago bullpen.

Onward and upward. Back at ‘em tomorrow for the sweep!