KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If this was Josh Tomlin’s last appearance with the Indians, he went out as expected.
In the Indians’ 2-1 loss to the Royals in 10 innings, Tomlin did what he’s done for most of his career. He didn’t walk a batter, he threw strikes and he allowed a home run.
Tomlin, 33, has been with the Indians longer than any player on the roster. Until this year, when a lot of things didn’t go right for him, he was the scrappy starter at the back end of the rotation who didn’t have great stuff, but more often than not gave the Indians a chance to win.
He’ll be a free agent this winter and the chances of him making the Tribe’s postseason roster are lukewarm at best. So if Thursday night was it, well, he made an impression on his coaches and teammates long before that.
“He’s the same guy every day,” said Mike Clevinger before Thursday’s game. “Whether he gives up 20 or throws seven shutout (innings) or he’s moved to the bullpen or he’s not pitching at all. You’re getting the same guy, the same quirky attitude, the same pick-me-up, the same guy screaming at the top of his lungs in the dugout, no matter what he’s doing.”
Tomlin has been a favorite of Terry Francona’s since he became manager following the 2012 season. He echoed Clevinger’s critique.
“Your true colors come out when you’re not doing well,” said Francona. “It’s easy to be a good teammate when you’re going well, really easy. . .He’s been the same whether he’s 9-1 or 1-9. He always looks out for everybody first. He lives it. He doesn’t just say it.
“Every day it’s the little things. When Andrew Miller is throwing, he’s out there watching. He’s always encouraging everybody.”
Tomlin allowed one run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five and threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. That included the home run that Adalberto Mondesi hit with two out in the third inning to tie the score, 1-1.
It was the 25th homer Tomlin has allowed this season in just 70 1/3 innings. He allowed 36 homers in 2016, but worked 174 innings and went 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA that season.
This year Tomlin is 2-5 with a 6.14 ERA. And yes, he went into Thursday’s start wondering if it would be his last as an Indian.
“Yes, I’ve had that thought,” he said after the game. “But at this point you’re trying to play for something a little more than that. My job is to go out there and try to prepare as if I’m getting ready for the postseason. To go out there and keep figuring things out and trending in the right direction.”
Tomlin said he’ll come to the ballpark on Friday. He’ll play catch, work out and study some video to see what his pitches are doing.
“At this point, to say I haven’t thought about it (being my last start), is false,” said Tomlin. “But I’m trying to stay on the same even keel, thinking about the postseason and taking it one day at a time. That’s the only thing I can control right now.”
Those thoughts extend beyond the Indians meeting with Houston in the ALDS that starts on Oct. 5. If Tomlin doesn’t make the ALDS roster, and the Indians advance, he could make the ALCS roster.
“It’s huge for anybody in that regard, pitcher or position player,” said Tomlin. “The playoffs is a different beast. It’s a different animal in its own right. You never know what can happen or when your name is going to be called.
“You saw it with Ryan Merritt in 2016. He was out in Arizona throwing simulated games and the next thing he comes in an helps us win a game against the Blue Jays (in the ALCS). You don’t want to be caught off guard if your name is called.”
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first on a sacrifice fly by Jose Ramirez off Glenn Sparkman. Francisco Lindor opened the game with a single, took second base when first baseman Ryan O’Hearn was charged with an error on a pickoff throw from Sparkman and went to third on a balk.
The Tribe went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. They put runners on first and third with one out in the sixth, but couldn’t score. In the eighth and 10th innings, they put runners on second and third with two out and came away empty.
The Royals won it in the 10th on Salvador Perez’s two-out single that scored Mondesi from third. Neil Ramirez (0-3) started the 10th with two quick outs, but walked Mondesi and Alex Gordon before Perez burned him.
It was the Indians’ 13th walk-off loss of the season.
What it means
The Indians are 10-6 against the Royals this season, 4-3 at Kauffman Stadium.
Tomlin threw 74 pitches, 52 (70 percent) for strikes. Sparkman threw 78 pitches, 51 (65 percent) for strikes.
To (not) catch a thief
When Greg Allen stole second base in the 10th inning, it give the Indians four players with at least 20 steals for the first time since 1911. Allen, Lindor, Ramirez and Davis have all topped 20 steals this year.
Thanks for coming
The Indians and Royals drew 19,252 to Kauffman Stadium. First pitch was at 8:16 p.m. with a temperature of 69 degrees.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (12-8, 3.07) will make his last start of the regular season on Friday when he faces right-hander Ian Kennedy (3-8, 4.59) and the Royals at 8:15 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Clevinger is 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts against the Royals this season. Kennedy has a 2.89 ERA and has held the opposition to a .219 batting over his last nine starts. He’s 3-5 with a 5.34 ERA in his career against the Tribe.