As expected, the first game of the Indians' road-trip turned out to be a pitchers' battle, won by the Tribe with three in the ninth inning, 4-1 Their seventh straight win moved Cleveland to 20-8 and allowed the Indians to maintain their 4 1/2 game lead over the Royals, who are putting together a streak of their own, having won four straight.
Tonight in Oakland it is a battle of the unbeatens as Cleveland's Josh Tomlin (4-0, 2.45 ERA) takes on the Athletics' Trevor Cahill (4-0, 1.88 ERA), in a something's-gotta-give kind of matchup -- assuming, that is, that the decisions on both sides do not go to the bullpens.
Tomlin could, by all rights, be 5-0 at this time, as his only non-decision of the season was a game the Tribe led going to the ninth, but lost, in Kansas City. Tomlin led in that one 2-0 when he was pulled in the eighth, and ended up allowing one earned run, before the bullpen let the game slip away in the ninth.
In his last start, last Thursday against the Royals in Cleveland, Tomlin got the win, going six innings and allowing two runs on only five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. In his 33 innings pitched this year, Tomlin has allowed only 30 base-runners.
Any time you can hold your opponents to less than one runner per inning, you are going to win a lot of games.
But that two-runs-in-six-innings effort of Tomlin's last week might not be enough this time, as the Athletics' Cahill has been equally as tough, and gives up half a run less per game than does Tomlin.
Cahill will be making his seventh start of the season tonight. He has given up more than one run only once, and in 38 1/3 innings has 33 strikeouts, so Cahill knows how to get a K when needed.
In his last three starts -- covering 21 innings -- Cahill has given up a mere two runs. That translates to an 0.86 ERA over the span, so any and all runs scored by the Tribe will be a bonus and Tomlin will have to be at his best.
Cahill has faced the Indians only twice in his career -- both times in Cleveland -- and is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA against the Tribe, allowing nine runs -- five earned -- in 10 2/3 innings, walking six and fanning four. Cahill has a career mark of 32-21 after going 18-8 last year with a stellar ERA of 2.97.
Tomlin will be making his first career appearance against Oakland.
Should Cleveland win tonight, it will mark their second eight-game winning streak of the season. After losing their first two games of the season, the Tribe ran off eight in a row between April 3-11. The two long streaks are obviously the reason that the Indians have the best record in the major leagues, but -- more importantly -- they are the reason that Cleveland only has Kansas City in the rear-view mirror at present in the Central Division. After the Royals at 4 1/2 back, next is Detroit, eight games behind, with Minnesota 10 back and the White Sox (no-hit by Minnesota's Francisco Liriano last night) 10 1/2 games in arrears.
This series will conclude with an afternoon game tomorrow at 3:35. It would be beyond nice if we could be previewing a possible nine-game winning streak tomorrow.