Tomlin keeps getting stuck in 'traffic'

Pitcher prone to multi-run homers in recent stretch

Tomlin keeps getting stuck in 'traffic'

WASHINGTON -- Josh Tomlin was not concerned with the ball that right fielder Abraham Almonte lost momentarily in the sun in the first inning. The pitcher also shrugged off the one that struck Almonte's glove before dropping to the warning track for a game-changing double in the fifth.

In the wake of Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Nationals, all Tomlin was focused on was the pitches he did not execute following the defensive miscues. Regardless of what happened behind Tomlin, all seven runs scored by Washington were hung on the right-hander's pitching line.

"I didn't do my job on the mound," Tomlin said. "That's the reason we lost the game."

That was true to an extent for Tomlin, who is trying to get back on track amidst some sporadic production from Cleveland's rotation over the past two weeks. The Indians' stellar staff has been one of the driving forces behind the club's climb to first place in the American League Central, but a few hiccups of late have contributed to Detroit closing the gap in the division race.

Tomlin's success across the first three months played a large part in the Tribe's success overall, but a few familiar kinks in the pitcher's armor have come back to haunt him. Tomlin has always been prone to home runs, for example, but his ability to limit baserunners (his rate of 1.2 walks per nine innings leads the AL) reduces the damage done.

Lately, however, that has not been the case.

"It's executing pitches when there's runners on base," Tomlin said. "I've been prone to the home run all year, but they've come usually when no one's on base, or limited traffic. Right now, it's just [that] there's traffic. It seems like every inning I'm having to work around guys, and when I make a mistake, I pay for it with a crooked number."

The three-run shot that Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth sent over the left-field wall in the second inning -- one preceded by a bunt single and a bloop hit -- marked the Major League-high 27th home run allowed by Tomlin this season. In his start on Friday against the Yankees, Tomlin gave up a grand slam to Starlin Castro. Five of the eight homers yielded by the righty in his past six starts have come with men on base.

Over his past six outings, which includes an ongoing streak of back-to-back starts of seven runs allowed in fewer than five innings, Tomlin has posted a 6.88 ERA and .301 opponents' average. In his first 15 starts, the starter went 9-1 with a 3.21 ERA, holding opponents to a .253 average. During that period, Tomlin gave up 19 homers, but 13 were solos and the remaining six were all two-run shots.

"The way J.T. pitches, he's going to pitch to contact," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The better [a] defensive team we are certainly helps him. And there's been a number of times where we haven't finished plays, or we haven't made plays, and that hasn't helped."

That is where Almonte came into play on Wednesday night.

In the first inning, Almonte struggled with the sun on a line drive by Werth, who watched the ball drop just beyond the right fielder's glove and bounce over the wall in right for a double. Two batters later, Wilson Ramos brought Werth in with a single. In the fifth, Daniel Murphy's liner to right clanked off Almonte's glove as the outfielder closed in on the wall, resulting in an RBI double that gave Washington a 5-4 lead.

That ended Tomlin's day, and the Nationals never looked back.

"It happens," Almonte said. "You're always trying to do your best to help the team to win. That's our main goal. Some days, you don't receive what you're looking for. Today was one of those days."

Tomlin was not about to blame the outfielder, though.

"I just need to execute a pitch," Tomlin said. "My job is to go out there and try to get outs. That didn't happen."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.