Tribe clips Blue Jays on eventful day
Choo delivers game-winning hit; Tomlin solid in spot start
TORONTO -- Roughly an hour before Saturday's contest against the Blue Jays, scheduled Indians starter Jake Westbrook anxiously paced up and down the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre -- bouncing a baseball off the ground with each stride he took.
It was easy to tell that something was on his mind.
Shortly thereafter, Westbrook was scratched from the lineup and was no longer a member of the Indians -- and 25-year old Josh Tomlin took his spot on the mound.
Making the second start of his career and pitching on only three days' rest, Tomlin gave the Indians a solid last-second spot start, backed by a Shin-Soo Choo seventh-inning RBI double, to propel the Tribe to a 2-1 victory.
"I kind of found out about it last night," an excited Tomlin said. "I knew ahead of time that it could be a possibility, but it wasn't a sure deal. I came in [Saturday] ready to go just in case, but it was never a sure deal."
Despite hurling 93 pitches in his first Major League win on Tuesday against the Yankees, Tomlin was not concerned about the short break between starts. The Texas native said it is something he has done in the past, and something he was willing to do again.
Tomlin wound up pitching 5 1/3 innings of one-run baseball, striking out five while surrendering just four hits and two walks. He frequently hit upwards of 91 mph on the radar gun, demonstrating no sign of arm fatigue entering his final pitch of the afternoon.
"Tomlin was fantastic," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He got the news he had to start a game on three days' rest, we kind of gave him a little bit of a heads-up early enough, [but] he was ready to do it.
"He did the same thing he did the other day against the Yankees. He threw strikes, changed speeds -- he's a pitcher."
The struggling Indians' offense did its best to support the young starter, getting on the board in the fourth frame. Choo and designated hitter Carlos Santana led off with consecutive singles, as Shelley Duncan walked to load the bases with one out. Following a Jayson Nix strike out, Jason Donald worked a five-pitch walk off Blue Jays starting pitcher Brett Cecil for the game's first run. The Tribe's new-found patience at the plate resulted in a 38-pitch inning for Cecil.
Toronto knotted the game with a Jose Molina solo home run in the fifth, but that was as close as the Jays would come. After a one-out walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, Choo was at it once again, doubling to left to plate the shortstop from first.
"Excellent base running by him," Acta said about Cabrera, who capitalized on a bobbled ball by Fred Lewis. "Cabrera is one of those guys who is baseball savvy. [It is] one of those things you just can't teach. [He has] very good instincts, and he took advantage of the ball bouncing on the turf and Freddy touching it. A very good read and he was able to score the winning run."
Indians' relievers Jensen Lewis, Joe Smith and Chris Perez picked up where Tomlin left off, combining for a scoreless 3 2/3 innings.
However, Perez's 11th save of the season was not without some drama. With one out and the bases loaded, Perez showed nerves of steel, striking out Edwin Encarnacion and pinch-hitter Travis Snider to end the threat and the game.
The Indians' defense also played an integral part in the victory, completing back-to-back inning-ending double plays in the sixth and seventh innings. With the Jays attempting a late push in the eighth, left fielder Duncan made a diving catch to rob Jays leadoff man Lewis of an extra-base hit.
"They were game-saving," Acta said. "Things tend to even out. We booted a couple ground balls which made it tough on ourselves, but we made plays when we had to. I think the Duncan play was huge because that was the first batter of the inning and it could have turned ugly over there."
Fortunately for the Indians, things didn't turn ugly amid all the trades and roster moves.
As for the new-look ballclub, which lost Westbrook, Kerry Wood, Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns in the run-up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Duncan said it should be fun.
"It's really a nothing to lose attitude," he said. "We almost have the [Triple-A] Columbus Clippers up here. It should be fun -- it really should be. Just relax and let loose."
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.