CLEVELAND – A similar narrative was scripted in Wednesday’s rubber match between the Indians and Rays.
One day after launching a season-high five home runs, the Rays added another two round-trippers to claim a 7-4 win at Progressive Field.
Josh Tomlin unraveled in a four-run second inning to take the loss behind another single-digit hit performance from the bats. Tampa Bay finished with a franchise-record 10 home runs in the series.
Strikeouts and home runs spell strange start for Tomlin
The Rays were able to pick up right where they left off as they blasted two more home runs to elevate their season total to 58, the third highest mark in the big leagues.
"Poorly executed pitches," Tomlin said. "Like a shark smelling blood, they just kind of started swinging and I let the ball over the heart of the plate."
Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison accounted for four of the team’s six RBIs thanks to their bombs off Tomlin – 2.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R/ER, 0 BB, 5 K (51 pitches, 36 strikes, 70.6%, two groundouts, zero flyouts).
"He got around a cutter and he just threw it right in that kid Dickerson’s happy zone," said Francona. "That was a big blow there. That’s a three-run (homer). For the most part, they’re going to live and die doing that. They hit a lot of home runs, they strikeout. In this series, the homers outdid the strikeouts.”
Prior to the offensive onslaught, Tomlin struck out five consecutive hitters and had a 100% strikeout rate and 1.000 BABIP at the same time in the second inning.
"They might strike out a bit, but they're a pretty athletic bunch," Tomlin said. "I know they swing a lot, but they can find the barrel pretty good too sometimes when they get that rolling."
Zimmer jumpstarts comeback
Lonnie Chisenhall and Bradley Zimmer both doubled to start the third inning before Jason Kipnis went opposite-field for an RBI single. For Zimmer, it was the first base knock and RBI of his young career.
"It was night and day," Zimmer said of the difference between his first two games. "After I hit the double in the first inning, I was able to kind of take a step back and relax. Just getting that first one out of the way is huge. I had some good at-bats the rest of the day. I had a couple good swings. It's a good day."
The Tribe tacked on another score on a Michael Brantley double to plate Francisco Lindor (single) before Alex Cobb retired the final eight hitters he faced to finish with three runs on six hits in seven innings.
"[Cobb] pitched really well," said Francona. "He threw the breaking ball for a strike, he threw the breaking ball from strike to ball, then he’d elevate his fastball. But you kind of felt like, especially the way the wind’s blowing, get a guy on or two, somebody pops one, we’ll have a chance."
No hits were recorded by the home nine after Brantley’s hit until Zimmer launched his first big league home run in the ninth, a solo shot off Alex Colome.
"That was good for him," Francona said. "It is a loss, but it’s still nice to see that because you want to take anything positive you can and I’m sure that he feels a heck of a lot better today than he did yesterday.”
Bullpen keeps it close
Five different pitchers out of the Cleveland bullpen combined for 6.2 frames, including Boone Logan who retired Dickerson for the third time in the series.
"Boone’s here to get the better lefties out, that’s why he’s here," said Francona. "Normally when he’s doing that, it gives us that other look in the bullpen that’s really big for us, and we know that.”
Nick Goody extended his scoreless streak to 15.1 innings to start the campaign before Shawn Armstrong surrendered a solo home run to Jesus Sucre in his second appearance in as many days.
The Indians will take the day off on Thursday before returning to action vs. the Astros on Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
RHP Trevor Bauer (3-4, 6.92) will be in search of his third quality start this season after tossing six innings of three-run ball in a winning effort against Minnesota last Sunday.
RHP Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.75) is scheduled to face the Tribe once again in hopes that he can go deeper than his 4.1 innings of work on April 27 at Progressive Field.