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All the offensive grit in the world can’t save Indians from their bullpen

...or Josh Tomlin, for that matter.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Tonight’s 7-6 loss to the New York Yankees was a tale of three games. There were the first three innings, where neither offense could get going; the middle innings, where Josh Tomlin remembered who he was and where he was pitching; and three exhilarating innings that ended in the Yankees scratching and clawing for just enough runs to bleed the Cleveland Indians out.

The first third of this game isn’t worth talking about much. Sure, Tomlin scraped by without allowing a run for three innings, but it wasn’t particularly effective. He still gave up a double, two singles, two walks, and he hit a guy. All before the third inning. Things didn’t change until Francisco Lindor committed an error on a tricky groundball that caught him in the chest instead of the glove. You could make the argument that Lindor ruined the game for Tomlin there, but the game was still scoreless after Lindor’s error, and even if he turned the play, it would have taken a herculean effort to be an inning-ending double play. The smart money is on Josh Tomlin being left to face rookie Gleyber Torres with one on and one out if Lindor is able to scoop and throw to second. And if he served up the same meatball, Torres would have still crushed it.

On that same note, it was a bit weird seeing the blind support on Twitter for Tomlin “grinding” (or insert any other cliche here) out seven innings when the Indians really needed. Yes, he was able to stay in the game for seven innings, but don’t pretend like he would have stayed the distance if the bullpen wasn’t still gassed from yesterday’s doubleheader. He was going to pitch a bunch of innings tonight until his arm fell off, no matter what he did. In fact, if he didn’t allow five runs and could have stayed in the game longer, he could have been effective over nine innings with 102 pitches, instead of that same number of pitches over seven. Yes, maybe he did give the Indians bullpen the slight rest they wanted, but let’s not oversell allowing four earned runs, including three home runs, in a little over two-thirds of a baseball game.

As mystified as the Yankees seemed to be by Josh Tomlin for three innings, the Indians were more so against CC Sabathia over his full six innings of work. They managed just three hits against the veteran, and were down 5-0 when he was replaced to start the seventh.

The eighth was a different story, and the Tribe suddenly turned into the offensive powerhouse we’ve seen as of late. Bradley Zimmer started things off with a three-run home run and Jose Ramirez followed it up three batters later with a two-run shot of his own. Neither were gifts from New Yankee Stadium, either. Zimmer crushed his at 106.1 miles per hour, and Jose Ramirez’s went two feet shy of 400, according to Statcast.

In the midst of the rally, Francisco Lindor showed yet another reason why he’s such a positive player for the game today. While trying to slide into second base, he accidentally kicked Didi Gregorius in the head. Didi clutched his head and immediately went to the ground, and while it wasn’t immediately clear if Lindor was tagged or not (meaning he could have gone back and tagged up just to be sure) he immediately dove to the attention of a human being he may have accidentally seriously injured. Didi was fine and Lindor was out, but it was a great humanizing moment for Lindor and another footnote in the growing book of why he’s the greatest.

The offensive rally ultimately went for naught, as Alexi Ogando made his Indians debut (and his first outing 2016) by walking everything in sight. Maybe walking Aaron Judge with the bases loaded was a sneaky good decision because it led to him inducing a fly ball out from Didi Gregorius, but anyone purposefully walking home a run to get to Didi right now probably isn’t thinking straight. It’s safe to assume Ogando just couldn’t find the strikezone tonight.

I completely understood leaving Ogando in for the entire eighth inning, and I even understood leaving him in to start the ninth. Sure, it was a tie game and you might like to get your best reliever in, but right now that’s Cody Allen and he just pitched yesterday. Give the man a break.

Terry Francona opted to let Ogando stay in only until he allowed a lead-off double, then he brought Allen in. I’m clearly not a Major League Manager (that you know of), but that seems like a really bad decision. Either leave Ogando in for the entire inning and save your reliever like you planned — no matter the outcome — or start the inning with Allen on the mound and give yourself the best chance to win. Tito landed somewhere in the middle and managed to lose and further burn out his last great reliever option for the weekend.

On the bright side, they avoided extra innings.