CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin and his father text every day, and sometimes the messages from the elder Tomlin look something like this: "Keep the ball in the yard." Occasionally, dad tones it down a notch and goes with, "Keep the ball down," or "Keep the ball on the ground and
CLEVELAND -- Josh Tomlin and his father text every day, and sometimes the messages from the elder Tomlin look something like this: "Keep the ball in the yard." Occasionally, dad tones it down a notch and goes with, "Keep the ball down," or "Keep the ball on the ground and get quick outs."
Tomlin could go on and on, but he just laughs, conceding, "He understands I have a little bit of a home run problem sometimes." Not recently, though, and the Indians hope to get more of the same from the soft-tossing right-hander when the World Series shifts to Wrigley Field for Game 3 tonight.
Tomlin, the unheralded veteran who has enjoyed tremendous success on the postseason stage this month, will stand opposite Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, with the Series tied, 1-1, in a setting baseball hasn't seen since 1945. That's the last time Wrigley Field hosted a World Series game.
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"It's an honor to be here," Tomlin acknowledged Thursday. "It's an honor to be playing the Cubs, and we're going to enjoy the moment."
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The historic element that weighs on this affair is not lost on Tomlin, but his appreciation for such things will be trumped in significance by dad's presence.
Jerry Tomlin was released from the hospital just last week. He's been paralyzed from the chest down since mid-August because of a rare condition called an arteriovenous malformation that required emergency surgery, keeping him confined to his room at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas for both of Josh's first two playoff starts. He had different plans in mind for this next one.
"I may have to break every rule in the book," Jerry told MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince this week, "but I plan to get there one way or another. If they have to throw me on somebody's back and carry me, I'm going to get there."
The green light has since been awarded for Jerry -- who uses a wheelchair while holding out hope to one day walk again -- to travel to Chicago, where father and son will share an experience that transcends the game.
"Oh, it means a lot," the younger Tomlin said. "He hasn't been to a game in quite a while, and it wasn't looking like he was going to get to come to a game at all. So to have him here and just to be able to see him is the thing I'm most looking forward to. But the fact that we get to experience the World Series together is pretty neat."
Tomlin, to this point, has seamlessly blended in with the rest of Cleveland's steadfast pitching staff, providing two strong starts against a pair of vaunted lineups in the Red Sox and the Blue Jays.
The 32-year-old picked up wins on both occasions, most recently holding Toronto to one run on three hits across 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Tomlin struck out six and walked two, thoroughly dominating the Blue Jays by befuddling them with a curveball they consistently pounded into the ground.
Tomlin, who for the majority of his career has relied on his four-seamer and cut fastball, greeted Toronto with more curveballs than he did on any other occasion all year while facing 22 batters. Only two of them hit the ball in the air. Throwing more curveballs, of course, doesn't guarantee success; the pitch has to be well located. But Tomlin, who pitched to a 1.69 ERA with only one home run allowed over his final five outings of the regular season, after surrendering 35 in his first 25 outings, has mastered this.
A similar game plan should serve him well against the Cubs, who had the lowest average exit velocity against curveballs during the regular season at 84.3 mph, according to Statcast™. They're still no easy assignment, and their fans will certainly want to have a say in the matter, too, but Indians teammate Mike Napoli assured, "The competitor Josh is, he's not scared."
"I just think he's built to pitch good all the time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think when you get challenged, like tomorrow's going to be an incredible atmosphere, it feels good to send him to the mound. He's going to compete, and he makes the opposing team beat him. Sometimes the opposing team beats him, but he's not going to beat himself."
Jane Lee has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2010.