Josh Tomlin took the mound at Safeco Field in Seattle on Saturday night as if it was just another outing for the Cleveland Indians.
But nine innings later, Tomlin's was anything but normal, as he led the team to a 5-0 victory over the Mariners by becoming the first Indians pitcher, and just the eighth Major League hurler since at least 1914 to throw a one-hit complete game shutout with 11 or more strikeouts, no walks and only one batter faced over the minimum of 27.
"It just means it gave us a chance to win the game," Tomlin told Sportstime Ohio after the win. "I felt good tonight. (Catcher) Yan (Gomes) had great fingers, great defense behind me. It all had to work out to do, so the guys played great, and I was able to keep them in the game.
"I was just throwing strikes, commanding the baseball. Being able to go both sides of the plate and actually throw first-pitch strikes, that was actually the main thing. I was following Yan the whole game, and every time he put a change-up down, we knew when to throw a ball and when to throw a strike, and it was working most of the night."
With his outing at Safeco Field, a place where he improved to 4-0 with a 2.12 earned-run average, Tomlin became the fifth Indians pitcher since 1914 with 11 or more strikeouts in a one-hit shutout, along with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who accomplished the feat twice, Luis Tiant, Bartolo Colon and John O'Donoghue.
Tomlin's performance against the Mariners, which was just his second-ever complete game in the majors, was "tremendous," according to Indians manager Terry Francona.
"I think the extra day of rest helped him, and he showed in enough and then, commanded tremendously away through his cutter, through his curveball and kind of took the sting out," Francona said.
"They hit a couple balls pretty good into the bigger parts of the ballpark, and 11 strikeouts, no walks, that was just a tremendous outing. That's a lineup that had come in feeling really good about themselves."
The lone hit for the Mariners came off the bat of Kyle Seager in the bottom of the fifth inning.
After Seager led off with the single to left field, Tomlin induced a line out to center field and a swinging strikeout. Then, after a wild pitch and throwing error allowed Seager to advance to third base, Tomlin set down Michael Saunders looking at the third strike on a four-seam fastball.
"I guess I caught him off-guard and he was guessing something else and he just took it," Tomlin said. "For me, that's what I have to do, keep them guessing, try to keep the hard contact off as much as I can and try to go as deep as I can."
Francona added, "I don't care if they swing or take. When you're commanding like that, you're going to start to get something like that. If you can throw to both sides of the plate and change speeds, I think you'll see that happen."
While Tomlin was in full command on the mound, his teammates gave him a quick offensive lift.
In the top of the first inning, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and came around to score on left fielder Michael Brantley's RBI single to left. Then, Brantley scored when designated hitter Carlos Santana blasted a double to center field.
The Indians added two more runs in the top of the fifth when center fielder Michael Bourn drove in third baseman Mike Aviles with a double to center field. After a balk moved him to third base, Bourn scored on Cabrera's sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Catcher Yan Gomes closed the book on the scoring when he belted a home run to center field in the top of the sixth.
"We've got a starter (Roenis Elias) out there that we haven't ever faced before, and for us to get two runs right away and give our starter a two-run lead right out of the gate, it gives him a chance to say, 'I don't have to be too fine with my pitches. I can actually pitch my game,'" Aviles told Sportstime Ohio.
"When you do something like that, obviously, he took the lead, just kept rolling with it, kept moving forward, and it shows how good of a pitcher he is."