Indians righty outpitches White Sox ace Sale, improves to 7-0 in 8 starts
By Cody Stavenhagen
CHICAGO -- Josh Tomlin isn't known for overpowering stuff. He isn't a former All-Star or a pitcher known to many casual fans.
But after the Indians handed White Sox ace Chris Sale his first loss in Tuesday's 6-2 victory, Tomlin has supplanted Sale as the top undefeated pitcher in the American League. Sale dropped to 9-1, and Tomlin improved to 7-0 in eight starts.
"You know what you're going to get out of him," shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "You know you're going to get a lot of ground balls, a lot of balls put in play, and he's going to compete. He's going to compete and throw strikes."
Tomlin did that despite giving up a first-inning leadoff home run to Adam Eaton. Instead of getting rattled, he sent the White Sox 2-3-4 hitters down in order.
"JT obviously settled down," manager Terry Francona said. "He threw an absurd amount of strikes and commanded everything and gave us a chance."
Tomlin didn't surrender another run until the fourth, when Jose Abreu and Brett Lawrie hit back-to-back doubles. But with one out in the inning, Tomlin got the help of a Lawrie baserunning mistake and a heads-up throw from Juan Uribe on a 6-5-3 double play.
"They were building momentum, and the next thing you know, you get a double play to end the inning, and then we're back in the dugout," Tomlin said. "That was one of the biggest plays of the game."
After that, Tomlin was nails. He retired 12 consecutive batters from the fourth to the eighth. He allowed only the two runs on five hits and one walk. He also struck out six, and pitched a season-high eight innings.
Despite his shutdown finish, his most important inning might have been the third. In the top half, the Indians struck for three runs and forced Sale to throw 43 pitches. Tomlin went out for the bottom half and sent the White Sox down in order on only eight pitches.
"My job is to get them back in as quick as I can, so I wasn't out trying to go out there and be too cute," Tomlin said. "It was, 'Execute pitches early in the count and try to get quick outs so the guys could come back in there and keep doing what they were doing.'"
That style is indicative of what has Tomlin at 7-0. On Tuesday, he threw 99 pitches, 76 for strikes.
"He gets it in there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Very effective with the cutter. Not a lot of fastballs. Everything just seems to be cutting in, running away. Hitting the strike zone, too."
Debate the value of the "win" stat all you want, but Tomlin is good any way you cut it.
"Seeing him go all the way to the eighth, you couldn't ask for anything better," Lindor said.
Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.