Not much was expected from him after undergoing shoulder surgery in the spring, but Josh Tomlin has played a key role in the Cleveland Indians' late playoff push.
With the Indians looking to avoid their first back-to-back home losses since July, the right-hander will try to win for the sixth time in seven starts Sunday against the Chicago White Sox.
Tomlin (5-2, 2.70 ERA) experienced some discomfort in his right shoulder while struggling during spring training. The issue ended up being worse than initially thought, and he missed the first four months of the season following surgery on his AC joint.
After working through a rehab assignment, Tomlin has been stellar in his return with 44 strikeouts and only three walks over seven starts. He won a career-high five straight starts before giving up two runs and four hits and going the distance in a 2-0 home loss to Kansas City on Tuesday.
"He'll continue to pitch well and, if he keeps on pitching like that, he's going to keep getting more wins than losses," pitching coach Mickey Callaway told MLB's official website.
Cleveland made things interesting by winning 12 of 16 from Aug. 25-Sept. 13, but the drive has stalled while the club has alternated wins and losses over the past seven games.
The Indians lost ground in the race for the AL's second wild-card spot Saturday after a sloppy 4-3 loss and Houston's win over Oakland. Now they're four games back with three teams to jump.
''These losses hurt a little bit because we're very close,'' losing pitcher Carlos Carrasco said.
Cleveland (73-74), 14-5 at home since Aug. 8, will try to avoid a split of this 10-game homestand and its first back-to-back losses at Progressive Field since an eight-game skid in July.
Tomlin is 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA while allowing seven home runs in five starts versus Chicago (70-77). In his only meeting this season, he yielded solo shots to Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu and Trayce Thompson over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-4 win Sept. 9.
Melky Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez and Adam Eaton, though, are a combined 2 for 29 in the matchup.
Eaton had two hits and drove in a run Saturday when the White Sox won for the sixth time in eight games at Progressive Field this season. He's batting .378 over an eight-game hitting streak.
John Danks (7-12, 4.56) has a 2.45 ERA over his last three starts after allowing three hits - all solo home runs - over seven innings in Monday's 8-7, 14-inning home win over Oakland.
The left-hander had been 2-8 with a 6.48 ERA in 12 road starts before scattering seven hits in a complete-game 12-1 victory at Kansas City on Sept. 4. He's 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three outings versus Cleveland this season and is 5-13 with a 5.29 mark in 25 career meetings.
Mike Aviles is 4 for 7 with a home run off him in 2015 and has a .364 average in 33 lifetime at-bats. Ryan Raburn is hitting .340 with four homers in 50 at-bats, but Carlos Santana is batting .188 in 32.
Cleveland third baseman Giovanny Urshela could sit for the fourth time in five games due to a sore right shoulder.