CLEVELAND – Digging out of an early hole by pecking away at a large deficit tends to be a losing strategy.
For the Indians, this belief has held true at Progressive Field in 2017.
A five-run first inning off Josh Tomlin was more than enough for the Chicago White Sox to cruise to a 10-4 victory over the Tribe on Thursday evening.
Cleveland tallied 11 hits, but could not keep the Chicago offense in check throughout the early stages of the contest.
Tomlin unravels in brief outing
Within 10 seconds of the game’s first pitch, Tomlin found himself staring beyond the left field wall as Tim Anderson launched his second career leadoff home run to pull ahead 1-0. Matt Davidson followed suit with a two-out three-run blast before Omar Narvaez capped off the offensive onslaught with an RBI single.
“I think it’s just a matter of missing out over the plate,” said Tomlin after the game. “You do that enough times (to) any lineup, they’ll make you pay for it.”
The second inning was not much better.
Tomlin gave up a two-run single to Avisail Garcia and exited with a final line of 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R/ER, 1 BB, 2 HR, 0 K, matching the shortest outing of his career.
“It seemed like everything was leaking back over the middle,” manager Terry Francona said. “He throws so many strikes. They were certainly ready to hit from pitch one.”
Prior to the run-scoring base knock, Lonnie Chisenhall fired a near-perfect throw on a runner tagging up from second base that would have been an inning-ending double play had the ball not been dropped by Yandy Diaz.
“Lonnie made a great throw,” said Francona. “Yandy couldn’t handle it because that saves us two runs right there and [Tomlin] can go back out.”
Facing a substantial deficit, the Tribe found themselves gradually closing in on a comeback bid.
With the bases loaded in the first, Jose Ramirez found the barrel of his bat and ripped a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Francisco Lindor. Chisenhall’s first at-bat of the campaign left two men stranded on a flyout to left.
Three innings of missed opportunities (0-for-3 with RISP) passed before the Indians hung their first crooked number at Progressive Field in the fifth. Michael Brantley awoke the bats with a solo home run and Chisenhall laced an RBI double to spell the end to Miguel Gonzalez’s night – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R/ER, 4 BB, 1 HR, 5 K (101 pitches, 53 strikes, 52.5%).
“That was nice to see,” Francona said of Brantley’s first home run since September 15, 2015. “You take whatever silver linings there are and then move on.”
Gomes added a solo shot in the eighth to snap an 0-for-12 skid while Ramirez bumped up his average to .250 (8-for-42) thanks to a three-hit night.
Bullpen keeps deficit from growing
One of the few positive takeaways from Thursday was 7.1 innings of three-run ball from the bullpen unit comprised of Shawn Armstrong (2.1 IP), Boone Logan (1 IP), Zach McAllister (2 IP), Dan Otero (1 IP) and Michael Martinez (1 IP).
The lone damage came in a three-run eighth when Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia each registered an RBI single off Otero.
Martinez logged his first career pitching appearance and performed quite well given the 10 runs already scored by the road nine.
“I don’t like doing it,” said Francona. “It’s no fun to lose. Using up your pitching makes it worse.”
Seven of the super utility man’s 12 pitches were strikes as only Leury Garcia reached base on a double.
“Fastball and sinkers,” Martinez said about his arsenal of pitches. “I throw harder than that.”
Central Division update
The Detroit Tigers (6-3) bullpen allowed five runs in the sixth to blow an early 2-0 lead and lose 11-5 to the Minnesota Twins (6-3). Kansas City (3-6) ended its three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over Oakland.
The Tribe and Tigers open a three-game series this weekend for the first three of their 19 regular season matchups.
RHP Trevor Bauer (0-1, 6.35) takes the hill for the second time after surrendering four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings against Arizona last Saturday. The UCLA product will be making his 10th start (11th appearance) and features a 4-3 record and 6.89 earned run average against Detroit.
LHP Daniel Norris (0-0, 4.26) opposes the Indians five days after posting a quality appearance vs. Boston. The 23-year-old recovered from thyroid cancer in October of 2015 and is primed for his first full season at the big league level in 2017.