CLEVELAND — The Indians received a surprisingly poor effort from its top-shelf rotation Tuesday night in the series opener with the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field.
The guy offering up the stinker wasn’t so surprising, though.
Cleveland got another dismal outing from right-hander Josh Tomlin, who didn’t make it through four innings, paving the way for the Cubs to roll by the Indians 10-3.
It was Chicago’s first visit to Cleveland since its Game 7 victory in the 2016 World Series. And Tomlin made them feel right at home, allowing five runs on seven hits — four home runs, including two to Kyle Schwarber — before departing with two outs in the fourth and the Cubs in front 5-1.
“When he’s really good, he’s commanding,” manager Terry Francona said of his team’s fifth starter. “He’ll run his cutter in on the lefties, spin his breaking ball, throw his change-up and really command and stay out of the middle. It seems like right now when he makes a mistake, catching too much of the plate and he’s paying the price for it right now.”
“I’m making too many of those mistakes throughout the course of the game right now,” Tomlin said. “And, even when I do make a good pitch, it’s a foul ball or they get the barrel to it and find a hole. It’s one of those things where I’ve got to either make an adjustment quicker than what I’m making or change what I’m doing out there in the moment, try something different at that time. Definitely, what I’m doing right now is not working, so it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Like last year, the season has begun horribly for Tomlin, who has allowed 14 runs on 22 hits, including a major league-high eight homers, in four appearances (three starts) covering only 12 2⁄3 innings.
He was able to turn things around in the second half of 2017, going 6-0 with a 3.11 ERA over his final 10 starts.
“It kind of started out the same way last year,” Francona said. “I’d say the good side of it is, knowing Tomlin, he’s going to figure it out. He and (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) will get back at it and he’s not going to shortchange anybody on effort. We know that. There’s a lot of trust with his desire and everything to be what he needs to be. He’ll get after it. He’ll figure it out. And he won’t be alone. Carl will help him and they’ll get it going.”
“It’s very similar to what happened last year, and it was very frustrating for that first half of the season when it was going on,” Tomlin said. “It is nice to know that that happened last year and I was able to come out of it in the second half and have a pretty good second half. So there is something to kind of take from last year and build off of it this year and use the information I got last year.
“For me, missing this much compared to another guy missing that much with 95 mph, whatever the case may be, that room for error, for me, is a lot slimmer than most pitchers and I understand that. To me, it’s about missing barrels and I haven’t missed too many barrels lately.”
A scuffling Indians offense proved it was not equipped to handle the big deficit, needing to manufacture its lone run off Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood in the third.
Bradley Zimmer reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning, then moved to second after Rajai Davis walked. Francisco Lindor bunted both up a base and Jason Kipnis scored Zimmer on a grounder to third.
Chatwood allowed four hits and walked five over six innings.
“He hasn’t been commanding very well early in the season,” Francona said of the right-hander. “We weren’t really able to make him pay a price for it. It was one of those games where we got down early and it just … it was 5-1, but it seemed like more and they spread it out. It’s kind of a miserable night and it’s more miserable when you’re losing.”
Cleveland, which entered the night batting only .189 with runners in scoring position and tied with Baltimore for the majors’ worst team average (.215), struck out 10 times.
“This is part of baseball,” Davis said. “It’s tough to be perfect, excellent or ‘on your A-game’ every single day, 162 games. It’s not going to happen, unless you’re superhuman, supernatural. I haven’t seen too many of those running around here. We’re all going to have human experiences. Often. We happened to have that here today.”
Zimmer and Jose Ramirez were the only productive members of the offense combining for six of the Indians’ nine hits.
Ramirez has been one of Cleveland’s few hitters to emerge from a season-long slide. He’s hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, batting .413 (19-for-46) with six homers, two doubles, nine runs and eight RBIs over the span.
Schwarber’s success at Progressive Field continued. The Middletown native who still lives in the city, is batting .500 (15-for-30) with three homers and eight RBIs in seven games (four in the World Series) at Cleveland’s park.