September 30, 2014

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Tribe: Josh Tomlin makes the most of start

CLEVELAND — Josh Tomlin did in one start what Carlos Carrasco was unable to do in four.

Tomlin, who lost out to Carrasco for the final spot in the Indians’ rotation this spring, offered up a gem in his season debut Tuesday night at Progressive Field, helping Cleveland to a 4-2 victory over the Twins.

Making his first start since July 27, 2012 — and with Carrasco watching from the bullpen — Tomlin was efficient and effective, allowing just a run on four hits and a walk while striking out four over 6⅔ innings.

It was the first big-league victory since July 5, 2012, for Tomlin, who missed most of last year recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery.

“I definitely had some anxiety going before the game, but good anxiety,” said Tomlin, who retired 13 of the 14 hitters he faced before Chris Colabello hit a one-out solo home run in the seventh inning. “It is the same anxiety I had gotten out there in years past. To be able to go out there and pitch well was pretty special.

“It’s very satisfying. You put in the hard work and you come back from that. There never is any guarantees you will come back from that surgery. Around the league there are a couple guys who had to have a second one before getting back out there. So to be able to come out here and not have any reservations about the elbow is special.”

“That was exciting,” manager Terry Francona said. “I actually walked out to him before the game and just said, ‘Hey, man, enjoy the (heck) out of this.’ He loves to compete. You can tell. We gave him the lead and he did exactly what you’re supposed to do, threw strikes, used both sides of the plate, he worked ahead. He started getting comfortable flipping his curveball over. (He) just worked ahead, down.”

The scuffling Indians offense didn’t produce a breakout performance, but it scored enough.

Building a comfort zone early for Tomlin, the Indians scored twice in the opening inning, once on an RBI single from Michael Brantley and again on David Murphy’s ground ball that went through the legs of Colabello at first base.

Cleveland scored two more in the following inning. Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a base hit, advanced to second on a balk, then scored when Yan Gomes followed with a double to the gap in left-center. Nick Swisher scored Gomes on a hard two-out single up the middle to make it 4-0.

“We’ve been in a little bit of a rut. We’ve talked about it,” Brantley said. “We’re going back to the basics. We need to do a better job all the way around as a team. We need to do a better job of just continuing to put pressure on the defense and continue to put runs on the board.”

Swisher entered the night batting .197 and in an 0-for-11 skid at the plate. He had hits in each of his first two at-bats.

“He took some good swings, good at bats,” Francona said. “It was really good to see.”

With closer John Axford and right-hander Cody Allen unavailable, Francona turned to Bryan Shaw in the ninth. Shaw allowed an unearned run but was able to record his fourth career save.

Cleveland committed two errors, bringing its season total to an American League-high 33 in 33 games. But thanks to Tomlin’s effort, there was a positive spin at the end.

“It’s awesome,” Brantley said. “Anybody that goes through Tommy John (surgery), it’s not an easy task. You have to work your tail off to get back to full strength, all the maintenance you have to do along that road. To see him come out there and perform like he did tonight, it was awesome. It was a lift for the team. That was a big start and a big win for us tonight.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.