Josh Tomlin carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning tonight before finally weakening and allowing three hits and two runs, but the Indians bailed him out with a four-run rally of their own in the seventh — including a startling three-run homer off the bat of Austin Kearns — and followed that up with a two-run blast from Carlos Santana in the eighth, as the Tribe defeated the New York Yankees 6-3 in front of 40,676 at Progressive Field.
Tomlin set a new major league record tonight by pitching at least five innings in his 29th straight start to begin his career, breaking a tie for that distinction that he had shared with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Tomlin was being matched by A.J. Burnett (8-7, 4.12 ERA) through six innings, at least in the department of putting up zeroes. Burnett had allowed only two hits heading for the seventh himself.
New York finally broke through against Tomlin (10-4, 3.78 ERA). Mark Teixeira got the Yankees’ first hit leading off, and after Alex Rodriquez fanned for the first out, Robinson Cano singled, putting Teixeira at second.
Nick Swisher then broke the scoreless tie with a double to left-center, scoring both Teixeira and Cano, before Tomlin retired the next two on ground outs.
The Indians had a chance in the very first inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera singled with one out, but was retired while attempting to take second on a ball that got away from catcher Russell Martin. Travis Hafner followed with a walk, but the threat ended when Carlos Santana flied out.
The Tribe then went without a hit until the bottom of the sixth, when Asdrubal Cabrera doubled with two outs, for his — and Cleveland’s — second hit. but that threat ended when Hafner flied out.
Finally and just in time, the Indians broke through in their next at-bat.
Burnett walked two in the bottom of the seventh, before Shelley Duncan put the Indians on the board with two outs with an RBI single, scoring Grady Sizemore and sending Lonnie Chisenhall to third.
Then Kearns — he of the two RBI all season — homered to right for his first round-tripper of the year, more than doubling his RBI total to five, and giving the Indians a 4-2 lead.
Tony Sipp came on to start the eighth, finishing Tomlin’s night and leaving Josh in position for his tenth win of the season. Sipp struck out Brett Gardner and was replaced by Vinnie Pestano. Pestano retired Derek Jeter on a line-out, but Curtis Granderson followed with a homer to right — his 23rd of the season — and the lead was cut to 4-3 Indians.
Pestano retired Teixeira to end the frame, with the lead still intact but oh-so-fragile.
Burnett gave way for Cory Wade in the bottom of the eighth. Wade had previously worked eight scoreless innings for New York, after coming to the Yankees via the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Wade last toiled in 2009.
That changed when Wade faced the Tribe tonight.
With one out Hafner singled to second and rode home on Carlos Santana’s 13th homer of the season, and suddenly Cleveland led 6-3 headed to the ninth.
On came Chris Perez for the Indians. Perez retired A-Rod on a grounder to short, got Cano to fly out to left, and got Swisher to pop out to end the game and to secure his 20th save of the season a day after being named to the All-Star team.
With the victory, the Indians will maintain at least a half-game lead over the Tigers, who played later on Monday night.