It’s difficult to believe the Cleveland Indians are even remotely oblivious to the opportunity they have tonight. Returning home with a 3-2 World Series lead over the Chicago Cubs, the Tribe is a victory away from winning a championship in front of a Cleveland crowd. The scene itself is incredibly difficult to fathom, and would be a sight unlike anything else.
Of course, winning Game 6 tonight will be no easy feat. Chicago sends Jake Arrieta to the mound, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in a Game 2 victory. The Cubs come to town after staying alive in Game 5, and are a win away from taking this to a do-or-die contest tomorrow night.
Attempting to prevent this from happening is Josh Tomlin. Cleveland’s soft-tossing Texan will make his second appearance of the series, hoping to continue his winning ways and send the city into euphoria.
For Tomlin to come through with one of the biggest wins in franchise history tonight, the strategy is simple – stay calm.
It sounds trivial, obviously. Of course you don’t want your starting pitcher shaking uncontrollably on the mound. At the same time, one of the biggest reasons Tomlin has been so successful this postseason is his unbelievable ability to keep his composure despite the surrounding circumstances, and he’ll need to do so again to come out on top tonight.
As we know, Tomlin isn’t the kind of pitcher who’s going to blow opponents away with his pitches. He’s not someone who has opposing hitters intimidated, and certainly wouldn’t be anyone’s ideal top-of-the-rotation guy.
Which makes his performance throughout this postseason all the more surprising. Relying solely on precise location and steely nerves, Tomlin has rolled to a 3-0 playoff record, striking out eleven and only giving up three earned runs. However, you’d be foolish to discredit the elements he’s dealt with while pitching this well.
In the ALDS, with a chance to sweep the Boston Red Sox, Tomlin took the mound in front of a frenzied Fenway crowd in Game 3. The locals were dying to postpone David Ortiz‘s retirement, and tried getting in the head of Cleveland’s pitcher early and often. Said strategy didn’t work as planned, as Tomlin casually worked five innings of two-run ball en route to an Indians sweep.
Of course, this setting paled in comparison to his most recent start.
Cleveland tabbed Tomlin for Game 3 of the World Series, looking to bounce back from a loss in the previous contest. Wrigley Field, packed with fans hoping to see a 108-year drought come to an end, was an atmosphere unlike any other. The environment would’ve shaken up almost every opposing pitcher.
Well, except for Tomlin, that is. Refusing to be rattled by the Cubs fanatics, the Indians’ starter casually held Chicago to just two hits on 4.2 innings pitched. A shaky outing could’ve put the Tribe in a tough spot, needing to win at least one of the next two games at Wrigley in order to stay alive. Instead, Tomlin gave Cleveland an edge nobody expected, and has helped bring the team to the situation it finds itself in tonight.
Provided he can remain calm, cool and collected on the mound in Game 6, he can cement an outstanding postseason with the biggest win of his career. He’ll once again be pitching in front of a raucous bunch, though it’ll actually be supporting him this time. Indians fans know what’s at stake tonight and will be louder than ever. One could argue trying to appease the home fans is just as daunting as quieting an away crowd.
However, Tomlin has proven to this point that the surrounding elements aren’t the kind of thing that rattles him. If he can prove this one more time, it could result in a win he and his team will never forget.