I don’t envy Josh Tomlin. It’s tough to believe anyone does.
The Cleveland Indians soft-tossing starter takes the mound tonight in the first World Series game Wrigley Field has hosted since the 40’s. He does so trying to quiet a Chicago Cubs team which just evened the series 1-1 Wednesday night and now has an opportunity to win three straight at home to close it all out. He also does so opposing Kyle Hendricks, he of the sparkling 2.13 regular season ERA.
So, yeah, Tomlin’s got a lot going against him tonight. Of course, this isn’t to ignore how well he’s pitched to this point. Seen as one of the question marks in a battered Indians rotation, he’s won both of his playoff starts, allowing a combined three earned runs and collecting ten strikeouts.
That said, Tomlin will definitely need to put forth as flawless a night as possible in Game 3. The Cubs lineup is incredibly imposing, and even the slightest slip up could come back to hurt him.
One thing that may help him, surprisingly, is the Wrigley atmosphere. Believe it or not, what’s sure to be an electric energy in Chicago might actually be something he can take advantage of.
Obviously, with Cubs fans eagerly awaiting the team’s first World Series title since 1908, they’re sure to be on the edge of their seats all night long. It’s incredibly difficult to believe the noise and excitement in the stadium tonight won’t make its way down to Chicago’s dugout.
Make no mistake, the Cubs are going to be amped for Game 3. They know what they have a chance to do, and will want to feed off the insane crowd energy. While this is understandable, there’s a chance it could also be a hindrance.
The intensity of what’s at stake could result in the players being a little over-anxious, especially at the plate. There’s an enormous amount of pressure on the Cubs to end a century-old drought, and it’s tough to believe the players won’t be a little anxious.
This is where the opportunity for Tomlin comes in.
Knowing Chicago’s batters might be trying to play off the crowd and perhaps try to come through with big hits, there’s a chance he can get them to chase a few pitches. This strategy was ineffective for Game 2 starter Trevor Bauer Wednesday night, as the Cubs happily watched his pitches dive out of the strike zone. That said, Tomlin attacks much more often than Bauer, so Chicago won’t be able to sit back on pitches as often.
This, combined with the weight and expectations of the fans packing Wrigley to the brim, could help to make Tomlin the ideal starter for tonight. With the Cubs likely wanting to give the crowd something to cheer for right away, having a pitcher who’s known for an off-speed, location-based approach definitely has a chance to work in Cleveland’s favor.
One drawback, obviously, is Tomlin’s propensity to give up home runs. He’s avoided this so far in his two postseason starts, but it’s always a fine line with him. If Chicago is aiming to swing for the fences, Tomlin is always one bad pitch away from obliging. The fact the weather calls for intense wind gusts out to center field tonight doesn’t exactly help his cause either.
It also should be noted Tomlin is facing a good amount of pressure himself. One of the main reasons for this is Cleveland’s need for another starter to step up and ensure the team won’t have to rely on just ace Corey Kluber to win games in this series. Though the Indians have intimated Kluber will go in Game 4 and Game 7 if necessary, they can’t survive on just hoping for quality starts from him. Another pitcher is going to have to generate a win, otherwise Cleveland’s time in the World Series will come to a bitter end.
Tomlin can certainly be the man to take on this challenge, as he’s hardly shown any inability to handle what’s asked of him this postseason. Pulling off a win tonight may be his toughest hurdle yet, but taking advantage of potentially over-eager Chicago bats may be a way to help his cause.