CLEVELAND - He is not the most physically imposing pitcher in the league, and certainly not the hardest thrower. But in five starts this year Josh Tomlin is 5-0.
Tomlin pitched six innings to keep his perfect record intact and Mike Napoli homered to lead the Cleveland Indians to a 5-4, come-from-behind victory over the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on Sunday afternoon.
"That was a hard game to win and a good game to win," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose team won two of the three games in the series in finishing up a 5-1 homestand.
Tomlin gave up four runs on seven hits, but he struck out three and didn't walk a batter. He got 13 of his 18 outs on three pitches or less.
"He's only walked two guys all year, so you've got to beat him," Francona said. "He manages the game and he loves competing."
Tomlin is the first Indians pitcher to win his first five starts since Justin Masterson did it in 2011. The Indians lost Saturday's game, but they had the right pitcher going Sunday. Since the start of 2015, Tomlin is 12-0 with a 2.82 ERA in 13 starts following an Indians loss.
"That means I'm doing my job and giving us a chance to win. That's what a starting pitcher's job is," Tomlin said.
Closer Cody Allen pitched the ninth inning to pick up his eighth save.
Cleveland needed just two pitches to take an early lead. In the bottom of the first inning, Carlos Santana, hitting leadoff this year for the first time in his career, hit the second pitch from Edinson Volquez (3-3) into the right-field seats for his fifth home run.
"I feel great. I'm really getting comfortable hitting leadoff," Santana said.
Tomlin cruised through the first three innings, holding Kansas City scoreless on two hits. But in the fourth inning the Royals sent seven men to the plate and scored three times, on a two-run homer by Eric Hosmer and an RBI double by Salvador Perez, to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.
The Indians got a run back in the bottom of the fourth when Napoli belted a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his sixth home run, cutting the Kansas City lead to 3-2.
"It doesn't matter what park he's in when he hits the ball like that," Francona said.
Cleveland took the lead in the fifth inning, sending eight men to the plate and scoring three runs. Francisco Lindor led off the inning with a single and a steal of second base. Michael Brantley followed with a single, scoring Lindor with the tying run.
Napoli drew a walk, but he was forced at second on a grounder hit by Yan Gomes. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to right field, scoring Brantley, and knocking Volquez out of the game.
"I let him pitch to Chisenhall because I thought Eddie had one more out left in him, but it didn't happen," said Royals Manager Ned Yost.
Danny Duffy relieved Volquez and Marlon Byrd greeted Duffy with a double to right field, scoring Gomes and pushing the Indians' lead to 5-3.
Volquez threw 105 pitches in 4 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts. In eight career starts against Cleveland, Volquez is 2-5 with an 8.31 ERA.
"The first couple of innings he was good, but in the fourth inning they elevated his pitch count," Yost said. "They found some holes in the fifth inning, but at that point he was past 100 pitches."
Tomlin pitched to one batter in the seventh inning and then was removed from the game. Perez led off the inning with a double to left field, raising his career average against Tomlin to .647 (11-for-17). Zach McAllister relieved Tomlin and Cheslor Cuthbert reached on an infield single.
Christian Colon followed that with a double to left field, scoring Perez to cut the Cleveland lead to 5-4. Cuthbert went to third on the play, and then tried to score on a grounder to hit to Lindor at short by Jarrod Dyson. But Lindor threw out Cuthbert at the plate for the first out.
"He got a late break. It was not a good read," Yost said of Cuthbert.
"Frankie made a good player there. He didn't rush. It went from a bad situation to a manageable situation," Francona said.
Bryan Shaw then relieved McAllister and got Alcides Escobar to ground into an inning-ending double play.
NOTES: Indians OF Lonnie Chisenhall made his first career start in center field on Sunday. Chisenhall, who normally starts in right field, is also now the backup center fielder behind OF Rajai Davis. Davis became the starter in center field when the Indians optioned OF Tyler Naquin to Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. ... The Indians are 2-7 in games decided in the seventh inning or later. ... Royals RHP Ian Kennedy has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts this year. ... Royals DH Kendrys Morales hit a three-run home run in the first inning Saturday. It was Morales' first home run since April 11 at Houston, a span of 83 at bats.