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Lake County Sentinel
How a rough August saved Josh Tomlin's season and how he saved their's in return
The month of August was not kind for Josh Tomlin in 2016. He allowed 36 homers this season, 10 of them in August, the most of any month this season for the soon to be 32 year old right hander from Texas. He carried an 11-3 record with a tidy 3.43 ERA into the second to last month of the regular season. There was even a case that he could have been an All-Star.

He finished August 11-8 and 4.89 ERA. From August 31 to September 13 Tomlin threw one inning while mostly getting a 13 day break.

This August, Tomlin also spent three days on the Family Medical Emergency list when he headed back home to Texas for a personal matter. The matters for being placed on this list are not disclosed and neither was this one. He was coming off of his best start in August, 7 ⅔ innings vs. Boston and allowed just three runs in a loss. He came back to face Toronto that weekend and allowed 22 runs over his last three starts in the month of August.

It’s been well documented that Tomlin had become reliant on his cut-fastball and got away from throwing his four-seam fastball. He’s since corrected that discrepancy and has become reliable yet again. Tomlin has always been reliable. 38 times to start his career between 2010 and 2011, he pitched at least five innings. While the flip in his cutter-four seam usage was highly notable, it’s way too easy to forget that athletes are humans and they to deal with things in their personal lives as well. The Indians and Tomlin have never disclosed or talked about what Tomlin went home to deal with. I sure as heck don’t know what the matter was. Lonnie Chisenhall had to deal with a personal tragedy in 2016 as well. Athletes are affected by as many personal problems as you or I deal with.

He took just three days of the five allotted for the Family Medical Emergency List. He didn’t have to come back in three days and make his next start. But he endured a rough month of August on and off the field in 2016, to say the least. But the 13 day break for Tomlin may have saved his season and subsequently their own.

At the time Tomlin was essentially benched, Danny Salazar was coming back from his first stint on the disabled list in 2016. With Salazar back in the rotation and Bauer pitching well, there was talk that Tomlin at most, would maybe be a bullpen option in the playoffs. Some opined he might not even be on the playoff roster.

But then Salazar struggled after his DL stint. Then he wound up back on the DL. Then Carlos Carrasco wound up on the disabled list with a broken finger on his pitching hand. Salazar has been on the DL since September 10th. Carrasco since September 18th.

Since September 10th, all Tomlin has done (including two playoff starts) : 31 ⅔ innings over five starts, eight runs, 17 strikeouts, three walks, three wins (two in the playoffs) and one homer allowed. The Indians are 4-1 in those five starts.

While so many people felt that Tomlin couldn’t be trusted to even come out of the bullpen in the playoffs, his team sure did. He’s always been well liked in the clubhouse with players and coaches alike. That’s why he’s one of three (four if you count Chris Gimenez’s first time with the Indians) still on the roster from 2010. He’s the longest tenured homegrown player and a media favorite as well.

Everyone focuses on velocity and the ability to get strikeouts in the postseason as the great equalizer - and for good reason (Hi, Andrew Miller!). But the postseason is also a time of year where guys like Tomlin can be difference makers. He hit 91 a few times on the radar gun in Game 2 of the ALCS. That’s scorching for him, but he’s not going to get over amped and overthrow or miss spots because he’s trying to blow guys away. Tomlin’s style and demeanor allow him to pitch an ALCS game like an April start. Albeit, he and the Indians had one heck of a game plan in Game 2, but Tomlin has the kind of elite command and focus to stick to and execute a gameplan that was extremely different from most of his start this season (Career high 36 curveballs).

Eight weeks ago, it was easy to write Tomlin off for the season and easy for some to believe he shouldn’t be on the postseason roster, let alone pitch a clinching game of the ALDS at Fenway Park in David Ortiz’s swan song. Or against the Toronto Blue Jays in ALCS Game 2 against a lineup that hit over 200 home runs this year.

But there he was and he’s been on the mound for two of the Indians five postseason wins this year. He came back from a personal matter in August and didn’t miss a start. The Indians gave him a break when he struggled from there-on. That break saved Tomlin’s season and to this point, there’s no disputing it has saved the Indians season..
email@lakecountysentinel.com follow Justin on Twitter @JL_Baseball
​POSTED 10/17/2016 00:00
Photo by Ben Zedner