CLEVELAND -- Death, taxes and five innings from Josh Tomlin. There are few certainties in life, but the Indians' right-hander etched his routine onto the short list of inevitabilities Monday night.
Tomlin tossed more than five innings Monday, as much of a sure thing as fireworks on July 4. Those who weren't busy barbecuing had their eyes on the Indians' starter, who bullied the Yankees, holding the American League's top dogs hitless for six innings.
But Tomlin's effort -- he allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings -- wouldn't have earned him a victory had Austin Kearns not delivered the knockout punch. The right fielder, who stepped into the batter's box in the seventh with no homers and two RBIs in 104 at-bats, socked a three-run shot to right field to give the Indians a lead they wouldn't relinquish, as they held on to win, 6-3.
Tomlin's repertoire, hardly overpowering or intimidating, continues to baffle opposing hitters. He set a modern Major League record by pitching at least five innings for the 29th consecutive appearance, the longest streak to begin a career. Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka previously held the record with 28 straight outings of five or more frames.
"The fact that this guy just set that record is really impressive," Tribe skipper Manny Acta said. "He has to be proud of what he has accomplished, because it's going to take a while before somebody else does it."
Derek Jeter, activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, reached on an error by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall to start the contest. He finished 0-for-4 and remains six hits shy of 3,000 for his career. Curtis Granderson followed with a walk. Then Tomlin promptly set down the next 18 Yankees.
"He just continues to amaze everybody here, because he doesn't back down from anybody," Acta said. "He attacks the zone with his four pitches, and makes big things happen for us on the mound."
Mark Teixeira opened the seventh inning with a sharp single up the middle, as the baseball whizzed past Tomlin's feet, brushing the dirt on the mound. Two batters later, Robinson Cano reached on an infield single. Right fielder Nick Swisher then belted a fastball into the gap in left-center field to score both runners.
That left the Indians' hurler in line for the loss, as A.J. Burnett had mystified the Indians' offense through six innings almost as masterfully as Tomlin had stymied New York's lineup. But the wheels fell off in the seventh for Burnett, too, as the Indians used patience at the plate to force the right-hander to make a mistake.
Burnett walked Grady Sizemore and Chisenhall and, with two outs, Shelley Duncan fouled off four pitches before lofting an RBI single in front of Swisher, just inside the right-field foul line.
Enter Kearns and his .192 batting average. In one swing of the bat, he produced more offense than he had in the first three months of the season. He sent Burnett's 1-0 fastball over the right-field fence, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 advantage, and sending the sellout crowd of 40,676 into a frenzy.
It wasn't his first exhibit of power against Burnett, though Kearns stressed that he's made "a lot of outs, too" against the hard-throwing right-hander over the years.
Kearns' only other hit against Burnett was a grand slam on May 21, 2002, when Kearns was a 22-year-old rookie with the Reds. His homer Monday made him 2-for-12 in his career against Burnett.
"It's a funny game," Kearns said. "I haven't really sniffed A.J. -- ever. For whatever reason, I had some good at-bats tonight."
Carlos Santana tacked on a two-run homer in the eighth to stretch the lead to 6-3. That was plenty of breathing room for Chris Perez in the ninth inning, as the All-Star closer preserved Tomlin's victory.
Tomlin experienced both extremes in his first two career starts against the Yankees. In his Major League debut on July 27, 2010, Tomlin limited New York to one run on three hits in seven innings. Three weeks ago, the Yankees roughed him up for six runs and 12 hits in five innings. Monday's start more similarly resembled his debut.
"My last outing against them, I didn't really go in to lefties much at all," Tomlin said. "I made it a point today to try to throw it in and make them conscious of that part of the plate, so the stuff away plays a little better."
Tomlin (10-4, 3.78 ERA) continues to make adjustments, and his successful results remain unwavering.
"He was able to hold down that amazing lineup that they have over there for six innings hitless, and then just gave up two runs," Acta said. "He just pitched outstanding baseball."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.