CLEVELAND — The Reds choked on a stifling pitching performance from the Indians’ ace Monday.
Tuesday night, it was Cleveland’s turn.
Doing little offensively against Cincinnati’s All-Star right-hander Johnny Cueto, the Indians fell 9-2 in the Cleveland finale of a four-game Ohio Cup series with the Reds, snapping their four-game winning streak in the process.
“Like a lot of good pitchers, if you don’t get them early and they settle in, they can kind of give you fits,” manager Terry Francona said of Cueto, who allowed a run in the opening inning and just one more the rest of the way in a complete-game victory that saw him surrender just five hits and strike out six.
“He has three pitches and a very good feel for pitching. He can throw any of them anytime he wants, and they’re all different looks.”
Cleveland got a much different outing from its starter, right-hander Josh Tomlin, who was ineffective from the beginning, allowing six runs on eight hits over just 4⅓ innings. It was Tomlin’s first start since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, where he was optioned after a series of ineffective outings.
“When he executes pitches, he gets people out,” Francona said. “Sometimes his margin for error with his fastball — he’s paid for it when he’s made mistakes.”
Tomlin gave up an unearned run in the opening inning when a careless error from third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall allowed Todd Frazier to score. Cleveland tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Tomlin crumbled in the second, allowing a decisive three-run home run to No. 9 hitter Ramon Santiago. It was Santiago’s first homer since Aug. 16 of last year.
Tomlin, who has surrendered a team-high 17 homers in 17 appearances (16 starts), pitched a scoreless third, but allowed a run in the fourth and one in the fifth before he departed with the Reds in front 6-1.
“Not good, that’s all there is to it,” Tomlin said, when asked about his performance. “We gave up one in the first and then the guys come back and put up another one to kind of erase it and then I go out and give up a three-run homer. That’s on me. That can’t happen.
“I’m very aware how much I’ve struggled over the past however many starts. Now it’s time to figure something out and get a lot better.”
He might not have the time.
Tomlin, who hasn’t won since his one-hit shutout of the Mariners on June 28, was recalled to take the rotation spot of struggling right-hander Zach McAllister. But there’s no guarantee he remains, with Francona hinting the Indians would discuss the fifth-starter situation in the coming days.
“We have some different scenarios in mind,” he said. “We have some things to think about certainly over the next 10 days.”
The game took a whacky turn as the Indians attempted to rally in the seventh inning.
With two men on and no outs, Yan Gomes doubled to right field to score Chisenhall from second. At nearly the exact moment that right fielder Jay Bruce was tracking down the ball, another ball on an errant throw from the bullpen from Cincinnati reliever Jumbo Diaz entered the playing field near Bruce.
Though Cleveland third base coach Mike Sarbaugh told David Murphy to hold the bag, Murphy picked up the extra ball. Thinking he had a chance to score, Murphy started for the plate before he realized the actual live ball had gotten to the infield, and he was thrown out while diving back to the base.
“Obviously the timing of it and everything was crazy and bizarre,” Murphy said. “The situation was unfortunate. I’m sure nobody’s really ever seen that before. Fortunately, the game ended up being a lopsided game because if that’s a one-run game, we have second and third with no outs there, and we’re trying to mount a comeback.
“As a player, I personally hate making outs on the bases, especially in a situation like that, but I’m not kicking myself, because, what do I do?”
“It was unfortunate and kind of fluky, but that’s the way it goes,” Francona said.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
PITCHERS: Salazar (4-4, 4.45 ERA) vs. Latos (3-3, 3.07)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM