(Sports Network) - Alex Rodriguez was supposed to take center stage in the New York Yankees' game with the Cleveland Indians last night, but an unknown rookie on the opposing team wound up being the star of the show.
After coming up empty once more in his quest to join baseball's 600 home run club, Rodriguez will attempt to help the Yankees bounce back from a loss to the last-place Indians when the two teams continue a four-game series from Progressive Field tonight.
Rodriguez went 0-for-4 in his latest stab at becoming the seventh player in major league history to reach the 600-homer milestone, but he wasn't the only New York hitter who struggled against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin. The young right-hander delivered seven outstanding innings in his first big-league start as the Indians evened this series with a 4-1 win.
Tomlin, called up from Triple-A Columbus to replace an injured Aaron Laffey in the Cleveland rotation, held New York's potent offense to a run and three hits in a dazzling debut. The 25-year-old did not walk a batter as well and threw 60-of-93 pitches for strikes.
"Outstanding effort by the kid," said Indians manager Manny Acta of Tomlin. "He's not going to be intimidated. He showed tremendous poise out there."
While Tomlin was shutting down the Yankees, his teammates put up four runs off former Indian CC Sabathia to hand the New York ace his first loss since May 23. Sabathia (13-4) lasted seven innings and gave up nine hits while walking three, and was hurt by a pair of Yankee errors that accounted for two earned runs in the fourth.
"My stuff was pretty good but I wasn't getting ahead and putting people away," said Sabathia.
Matt LaPorta went 2-for-3 with two RBI to lead the way offensively for Cleveland, which halted a three-game skid and avenged a 3-2 loss to the Yanks in Monday's opener.
New York lost for only the second time in seven tries but did have its lead atop the American League East shortened when second-place Tampa Bay defeated Detroit on Tuesday. The Rays are now just two games in back of the Yankees.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, has now gone five games and 20 at-bats since hitting career homer No. 599 in a victory over Kansas City last Thursday.
He and the Yankees figure to face a another tough challenge this evening, with the Indians set to send top starter Fausto Carmona to the mound. The 2010 All- Star enters tonight's clash having won his last three starts and sports an impressive 10-7 season record along with a 3.51 earned run average over 20 total appearances.
Carmona got to double-digit wins after yielding one unearned run and a mere one hit while striking out seven over five innings to best Tampa Bay this past Friday. The right-hander did issue six walks in his previous start, but still managed to limit Detroit to three runs through seven innings and pick up a win in a July 17 matchup at Progressive Field.
The 26-year-old, who's 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 home starts this year, did lose to New York at Yankee Stadium after surrendering four runs in six innings back on May 28. In nine career regular-season appearances (six starts) against the Bronx Bombers, Carmona is 1-3 with a 5.30 ERA.
Rodriguez has two hits, including one homer, and struck out five times in eight lifetime at-bats against Carmona, who's surrendered only seven long balls over 128 1/3 innings pitched this season.
Fresh off a very encouraging last start, A.J. Burnett gets the call for New York and will be aiming to climb over the .500 mark for the season. The erratic right-hander delivered five shutout innings before leaving due to a rain delay in a 7-1 victory over Kansas City on Friday, a stark improvement over his prior time out. Against Tampa Bay on July 17, Burnett was tagged for four runs in two-plus innings and was forced to exit early after cutting both his hands on a clubhouse door in frustration.
Aside from that forgettable performance, Burnett has actually pitched very well this month. After enduring a five-start losing streak from June 4-26, the 33-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA in four July assignments.
One of Burnett's best showings of the year came against the Indians, a May 30 win in which he allowed three runs -- one earned -- and struck out eight without a walk over eight innings. He's still just 2-4 with a 5.68 ERA in seven career starts versus Cleveland, and 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA through four all-time visits to Progressive Field.
New York took three of four games from the Indians in that late-May series at Yankee Stadium and has prevailed in eight of the last 11 clashes between the teams. In their only visit to Cleveland last season, the Yankees won three of four tests from the Tribe.