CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin understands the landscape. After the injuries that have hit the Indians' rotation over the past two weeks, dealing a pair of serious blows to a starting staff that looked primed for a deep postseason run, the microscope is now on Tomlin and rookie Mike Clevinger.
In a 2-1 win over the Royals on Tuesday night, Tomlin delivered a gem. The right-hander continued to shake off his abysmal August and returned to the precision-based pitching that had him in the All-Star discussion in the first half. Tomlin walked off with a no-decision, but his effort put Cleveland in position to celebrate a walk-off win.
With Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar shelved with injuries, this is what the Indians need from Tomlin from here on out. The same goes for Clevinger. And Tomlin does not need anyone to tell him that.
"We understand what happened. We get it," Tomlin said. "Carrasco and Danny are a key part of that rotation. We all know that. Everybody knows that. But our job is to step up. Our job is to go out there and give this team a chance to win. It's not to try to do what Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar can do. It's to try to be ourselves and give our team a chance to win every fifth day.
"Both of us, we know we have to step up. We know we have to try to go out there and log innings and keep us in the game. We're up for the challenge. We're ready for it, and we're trying to do the best we can to try to help win the Central and get into the playoffs and play deep into the playoffs."
With the win, the American League Central-leading Indians reduced their magic number to clinch the division to six games. Cleveland holds a seven-game lead over second-place Detroit with 12 games left on the schedule.
Tomlin gave the Indians 6 2/3 innings, in which he scattered five hits, struck out three, allowed one run and issued no walks. The righty's lone lapse came in a two-batter stretch in the fifth. Salvador Perez doubled and then Alex Gordon brought him home with a single.
"I thought he was outstanding," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Efficient, threw strikes, everything was crisp. He did a heck of a job."
When Tomlin headed off the hill in the seventh, he did so to a loud standing ovation from a Progressive Field crowd that knows how important each one of his starts are from now on. The pitcher exited with two outs and a runner on third, but setup man Bryan Shaw made sure that was as far as Kansas City got in the inning. Paulo Orlando flew out to end the frame.
"He did a great job. He's done it most of the year, obviously," Shaw said. "To see him come out and do what he's done the last couple times for us, getting back into the swing of things in light of everything that happened to the rest of the starting staff, really showed how we can overcome and continue our success hopefully in the postseason."
Since going 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in six August outings, Tomlin has posted a 1.42 ERA in his three most recent appearances. Over that stretch, which includes two starts, the righty has given up two runs with six strikeouts and no walks in 12 2/3 innings. On the year, Tomlin is 12-8 with a 4.61 ERA in 28 games (160 innings), in which he has 114 strikeouts against 20 walks.
"It feels good. It feels good to be able to contribute and try to help this team win," Tomlin said. "I know I put them in a tough spot for [a few] starts before these last two. My job now is to look forward and try to go as many innings as I possibly can and try to keep this team in contention."
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.