CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin's name was not uttered much publicly by the Tribe brass before his promotion to the bigs. He was hardly a highly-touted prospect, no matter how many wins he racked up on his climb up the Minor League ladder. Quietly, though, Tomlin attracted attention. All the things manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher preach about location and limiting traffic, Tomlin executed. He didn't have much zip, but he did have a tiny WHIP. And he developed a reputation for having guts, in lieu of stuff. On Tuesday night, making his Major League debut against a loaded and lethal Yankees lineup, Tomlin was admittedly nervous, but not intimidated. For seven magnificent innings, he outdueled former Tribe ace CC Sabathia, as the Indians beat the Yanks, 4-1, at Progressive Field.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and get them to put it in play," Tomlin said. "Let them do what they do." And they didn't do much. In seven-plus innings, Tomlin allowed just a run on three hits with no walks and two strikeouts. It was very much a continuation of what Tomlin has done at Triple-A Columbus this season. Using an arsenal that includes a fastball topping out around 91 mph, as well as a cutter and changeup, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Tomlin had an 8-4 record, 2.68 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 20 appearances for the Clippers. "He's the poster boy for what we want around here," Acta said. "He's not the most intimidating guy, but he still throws 90-91 mph. Last I checked, that's still pretty good at this level, when you can locate." Much like Jeanmar Gomez before him, Tomlin relied on location to post a victory in his first crack at the Majors. In fact, Gomez, who was dispatched back to Triple-A Columbus after a win over the Tigers on July 18, and Tomlin became the first pair of Indians rookies to post a victory in their debut in the same season since the immortal Phil Bedgood and Dewey Metivier did so way back in 1922. That useless bit of trivia won't get Tomlin anywhere, but his strike-throwing ability will. It certainly aided him against Alex Rodriguez, whose quest for career homer No. 600 continues. "He threw the ball extremely well," Rodriguez said. "He threw a lot of cutters, kept working ahead of guys, pitched backwards a little bit. For the most part, I don't think we had any good swings off of him." Tomlin, 25, got the call informing him he was coming to the big leagues on Sunday. He had two days to wrap his head around the fact that he was not only joining the Indians, but also debuting against the Yanks. "I was excited about both," he said. "Very excited. My first pitch in the big leagues was to Derek Jeter. That's pretty cool." That first pitch nearly plunked Jeter, but Tomlin settled in from there. He retired the first nine batters he faced. "After A-Rod's at-bat in the second inning," he said, "I started to control my emotions, and I was able to get those guys out." The Yankees tried to make adjustments off Tomlin the second time through the order, to no avail. Jeter led off the fourth with a single, but was eliminated when he was caught stealing. Tomlin faced the minimum through 6 1/3 innings. "When you can control and locate the way that kid did, you can adjust all you want," Acta said. "If you locate, you can get people out." The Indians got Tomlin some run support in the fourth, when they took advantage of a pair of Yankees errors. With two runners in scoring position and none out, Austin Kearns grounded to third. Rodriguez fired home to try to nab Asdrubal Cabrera, but catcher Francisco Cervelli dropped the ball, and Cabrera scored the game's first run. With two on and one out, Jhonny Peralta grounded into a would-be fielder's choice at second, but Robinson Cano's foot was off the bag, and everybody was safe to load the bases. Matt LaPorta's ensuing sacrifice fly made it 2-0. In the sixth, Kearns' leadoff triple, which fell out of the glove of center fielder Curtis Granderson, and Peralta's one-out walk gave the Indians a chance to add insurance. They did so when LaPorta ripped a double to score Peralta. After Jason Donald was intentionally walked to load the bases, Chris Gimenez drew ball four off Sabathia to force home another run and make it 4-0. That was all the help Tomlin needed. He was efficient and effective, using 93 pitches to get through seven innings. His moxie was revealed when he repeatedly used his breaking ball in hitter's counts. "That's something I've always done and had to be able to do," he said, "because my fastball's not overpowering." Alas, when Tomlin allowed a leadoff double to Cano in the eighth, Acta had seen enough of Tomlin's magic act. Acta turned to the bullpen, which did not disappoint. The end, though, was not without its fair share of drama. After an inherited runner came across against Joe Smith in the eighth, Chris Perez went out in the ninth looking for his 10th save. Consecutive singles from Brett Gardner and Jeter put runners on the corners with none out. Perez had to strike out Nick Swisher, get Mark Teixeira to pop out and get the 600-seeking Rodriguez to ground into a fielder's choice to close the door. All this served to get Tomlin the win he so richly deserved. And with another start looming in Toronto on Sunday, he'll have more time to prove he's a name to remember. "It feels great," he said, "to know they have confidence in me."