Tomlin digs too deep a hole for Tribe in Bronx

Tomlin digs too deep a hole for Tribe in Bronx

Tomlin digs too deep a hole for Tribe in Bronx
NEW YORK -- Rare is the pitcher who finds the cure for what ails him at Yankee Stadium. On Monday night, the beast in the Bronx chewed up Indians starter Josh Tomlin and spit him out after three forgettable innings.

Complicating matters was the continued absence of offense by Cleveland, which fell, 7-1, at the hands of the Yankees and right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in the opener of a three-game series in New York. The loss was the third in a row for the suddenly road-weary Indians.

For Tomlin, who provided a picture of consistency in his first full tour with the Tribe a year ago, it was another blow within a series of recent setbacks. The Yankees launched three home runs off the right-hander and sent him to the showers after pounding out six runs in the shortest start of his career.

"This is the wrong place to pitch behind in the count, up in the zone," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Wrong place. Wrong team. He just doesn't have the stuff to pitch behind in the count and then have to come back into the zone and battle these guys. He really struggled."

Prior to Monday's game against the Yankees, the Indians optioned struggling starter Jeanmar Gomez (1-5 with a 7.92 ERA in his last six starts) to Triple-A Columbus to work on his persistent issues. At least for now, it appears as though Tomlin (2-3 with a 6.82 ERA in his past six starts) will avoid a similar fate.

Beyond the fact that Cleveland (37-35) lacks rotation depth in the Minors, the woes of Gomez and Tomlin each come with different circumstances.

"Josh's issues haven't been as pronounced as Gomez," Acta explained. "He attacks the zone more. He throws strikes all the time, which is something that helps him out. If he doesn't work things out up here, he could be a guy that could be moved into the bullpen down the road. But that's not something that we're thinking about right now.

"It's a different situation with both of them, especially because the other kid [Gomez] was working on his mechanics and his delivery. That's not the case with Josh."

Tomlin -- tied for the team lead in wins (12) last season -- relies on pinpoint location and pitch efficiency. That is a large reason behind his impressive streak of 37 consecutive appearances (2010-11) with at least five innings pitched to start his career. That represents a modern-day Major League record.

With his latest loss, Tomlin slipped to 3-5 with 5.70 ERA on the season. The pitcher is at a loss when it comes to deciphering a precise cause for his struggles.

"I have no idea. I really don't," Tomlin said. "I wish I knew. If I knew, I'd fix it."

The right-hander's signature control abandoned him in the Bronx.

Two batters into Monday's outing, Tomlin had fired off 19 pitches between meetings with Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. Before the starter could escape the opening frame, Robinson Cano laced a pitch into the right-center-field gap for a two-run double that spotted the Yankees (44-28) to a quick 2-0 lead.

Dewayne Wise, who entered the night mired in a 4-for-30 slump, launched a two-run homer off Tomlin in the second inning. Cano (17 home runs on the season) and Nick Swisher (12) then connected for back-to-back blasts with two outs in the third to push the Indians behind, 6-0.

Wise added an RBI triple off reliever Scott Barnes in the sixth inning.

"Guys were fouling pitches off, and they saw a lot of pitches early," Tomlin said. "If guys were going to miss by that much, I'd prefer them to put it in play somewhere and hopefully get an out. At that point, they were fouling a bunch of pitches off and waiting. And when they got a pitch to hit, they didn't really miss it."

Of course, Cleveland's anemic offense did not help Tomlin's cause.

Kuroda (7-7) limited the Tribe to one run -- courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Jason Kipnis in the eighth inning -- on five hits in seven-plus innings. Over the past four games, Cleveland has hit just .165 (20-for-121) with five runs scored. On Monday, the Indians went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position to slip to 3-for-23 with RISP in the last four games.

"It's the long roller coaster of the season," Acta said. "You win, you lose. You hit, you don't hit. You pitch, you don't pitch. You catch the ball, you don't catch the ball. The bottom line is we're 4-3 over the last seven games."

The Tribe has scored three runs or fewer in 10 of its past 15 games.

"After they got out to that lead, he was pumping the first-pitch strike," Indians outfielder Johnny Damon said. "And then his splitter was really good. He knew his splitter was good and the pitches we had a chance to hit well, we didn't."

Along with the sharp splitter, Kuroda featured a sharp sinker that helped keep the wave of Cleveland lefties guessing. Later in the contest, the Yankees right-hander began mixing in more breaking balls, leading to a performance that Acta felt outweighed the offensive issues faced of late by his lineup.

"He pitched a great game," Acta said. "Regardless of how we're swinging the bat, he had good stuff."

Tomlin had good stuff in his previous start, last Tuesday, when he pitched into the seventh and held the Reds to one run. In the outing before that gem, the righty surrendered six runs to Cincinnati in four innings. Tomlin has labored through a tug-of-war between solid and sour starts for the past month.

"It's just the way the year's going," Tomlin said. "I'll have a good one and then a bad one and then a good one and then a bad one. I definitely need to find consistency there, and that's something I've been working on."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.