Josh Tomlin threw one of the best games in baseball this year, behind Clayton Kershaw’s perfect game, but on par with the two other no hitters thrown by Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum. In Tomlin’s game, he threw a complete game, allowed no runs, no walks and just one hit, a single by Kyle Seager in the fifth inning. This was the first Indians one hitter since 2003 when Billy Traber also had a no walk, one hit game against the Yankees (the last no hitter by an Indians pitcher was Len Barker’s 1981 perfect game) and the first one hitter in Indians history with at least 11 strike outs and no walks. All this was known last night, so let’s go a little deeper into how he did it.
Tomlin needed just 111 pitches on the night, 69% of which were strikes, as he put batters away early in counts when he wasn’t striking them out. Comparing the first inning to the rest of the game, it almost looked like Tomlin didn’t have it yet. It took him 16 pitches to get through the inning and he struck out just Robinson Cano, who was called out looking on a 91 MPH four seamer. For the rest of the game, only four more at bats would span six or more pitches for the Mariners.
He had thrown just two breaking pitches in the first inning and that continued into the second as he stuck with the four seamer as a set up pitch and using his cutter as the out pitch in the first two at bats. This included Kyle Seager to lead off the inning. This was definitely the play of the game as Seager could have easily lead the inning off with a triple had Ryan Raburn not made a tremendous catch running to his left and jumping at the last second to snag the liner. Even had he reached base, it is possible he would not have scored as Tomlin induced a ground ball from Logan Morrison before striking out Mike Zunino for his third K of the night. After a first pitch ball, Zunino swung and missed at three straight fastballs.
The Mariners knew Tomlin had something special by this point, as Michael Saunders bunted, trying to disturb his rhythm. Of course, Tomlin is a tremendous fielder as well and had no problem with this play or the many others that he had to cover first for. With one easy out away, Tomlin confused Dustin Ackley with a rare change-up, popping him out to right on two pitches. Back to the fast balls, Brad Miller flew out to left on four pitches, giving Tomlin his easiest inning of the night at just seven pitches and his only inning on the night with out a strike out.
Tomlin stuck with the sinker primarily against the first two hitters in the fourth, getting Endy Chavez to fly out before James Jones also decided to bunt out to the pitcher. With Cano back up, Tomlin broke out his curve ball for the first time of the night, throwing it three times in the at bat, first for a called strike, then for a ball, then to end the at bat as it dropped out of the strike zone while Cano swung over top, striking out for the second time of the night.
With a new four run lead, Tomlin had plenty of confidence going into the fifth, but that didn’t stop Seager from leading the inning off with the first hit of the game. Morrison then flew out on a change-up and Zunino struck out for the second time, this time swinging at a curve ball in the dirt. Saunder also struck out swinging, but not before a wild pitch and a Yan Gomes error allowed Seager to reach third. This was the Mariners only scoring opportunity of the night, but Tomlin was able to bear down and strike out the final two batters, keeping the M’s off the scoreboard. Tomlin’s change in pitch usage likely had a lot to do with his late success. Instead of sticking with the four seam fastball and sinker, Tomlin switched to the cutter and curve, showing something that the Mariners hitters had yet to see.
Ackley started the sixth by grounding out to first on one of those great curves, then Miller struck out on the same pitch. Tomlin then threw only fast balls to Chavez, getting him to fly out to center. Switching things around, Tomlin struck out five of his next six hitters, the only batter to escape being Cano, who swung at the first pitch and grounded out to first rather than risk his third K. In the seventh, Jones started by taking two strikes before striking out on a foul tip on a cutter prior to the Cano at bat. The next two at bats were the longest of the night with Seager ending the seventh with a seven pitch strike out and Morrison beginning the eighth with the same. Tomlin worked his curve again against Seager, being cautious against the only player to make safe contact against him early in the game. He ended up getting him swinging on a curve ball that was ten MPH slower than the fast balls he had been seeing in the at bat.
Morrison began the eighth with a seven pitch, called strike out, then both Zunino and Saunders struck out swinging on three straight pitches. With the bottom of the lineup coming up for the bottom of the ninth, Tomlin had no problem keeping his five run lead. Both Ackley and Chavez grounded out to first with just a fly out to center in between. Ackley’s at bat to begin the inning was one of just four full counts by Tomlin in the game as he was consistently ahead. Tomlin may never have a game like this again in his life, but it showed how great he can be. He also showed that you don’t need a 95+MPH fast ball to be successful in the Majors, just to throw quality strikes and to pitch intelligently. The following chart shouldn’t surprise anyone as Tomlin avoided the most dangerous zones while keeping right on the edge.