CLEVELAND -- When a pitcher does not have a mid-to-high 90s fastball to overpower hitters, he has to get creative with his pitches, and that is exactly what Cleveland Indians starter Josh Tomlin has learned over his seven-year career in Major League Baseball.
Tomlin was plenty creative with his cut fastballs and curveballs against the San Diego Padres at Progressive Field last Thursday night, and that craftiness coupled with a stout offensive performance led to an 11-2 win for the Indians.
“It’s huge because it’s such a separator for a fastball,” Tomlin said. “I’m a heavy fastball-cutter guy, so to be able to have that differential in speed to kind of slow guys down, my changeup wasn’t very good, I think I threw maybe two or three changeups the whole night, they weren’t very quality pitches.
“So to be able to have that curveball and different speed just keeps them off-balance more, and it makes the fastball in and up play a little bit better. You can get weak contact with that or a swing and miss, especially if they’re curveballs for a strike or a ball when you need them to be.”
Over seven innings of work, Tomlin scattered four hits and two earned runs, did not surrender a walk and struck out six Padres hitters. Tomlin located the strike zone with 74 of his 96 pitches and drew a standing ovation from the crowd on his way to the dugout in the top of the eighth inning.
Tomlin was perfect through the first four innings, and set down the Padres in order in six of his seven frames.
“It’s huge for me,” Tomlin said. “Being a guy that’s not very powerful, I have to control the count as much as I can. I understand there’s certain situations where you don’t want to control the count.
“You want to try and pitch around guys, but for me, controlling the count as much as I can and following Gomer’s glove is huge. I was able to do that, and I was able to command the ball. Fortunately enough, I was able to get deep in a game and help us win the game.”
Of those 74 pitches that found the strike zone against San Diego, many had late-breaking action to them, and having those secondary and tertiary pitches like the cut fastball and curveball working well allowed Tomlin to keep the Padres off balance.
“If you’re in bad counts or you’re not throwing the breaking ball for a strike and they can kind of see the fastball and cutter’s spin quite often, then you’re probably not getting very many chases and they just miss off the plate,” Tomlin said.
“That’s a huge part of my game, to try and get guys outside of the zone a little bit or try to get bigger, maybe try and get in a defensive swing because I’m in a good count with them. Maybe they expand a little bit and they don’t barrel it up. That’s the only thing I’m trying to do, trying to miss as many barrels as I can. That way, hopefully, I can go deep into a game and our defense can work.”
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