August 08, 2016

WASHINGTON -- The Cleveland Indians starting rotation is suddenly on a roll.

After struggling through a tough stretch last week, right hander Josh Tomlin will look to turn in the team's fourth consecutive strong outing when the Indians close out their two-game series at the Washington on Wednesday.

Tuesday night was Trevor Bauer's turn. He bounced back from the worst outing of his career to pitch 6 1/3 shutout innings for the win as the Indians defeated the Nationals 3-1.

That followed quality work from Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco over the weekend. The trio combined for a 1.27 ERA over 21 1/3 innings over the three games.

"What it does is it kind of sets up everybody for their roles," said bench coach Brad Mills, who managed Tuesday's game when Terry Francona was taken ill prior to the start. "It's sure nice to get, there's no doubt."

Like Bauer, Tomlin (11-4, 3.81 ERA) hopes to rebound from a bad outing. He allowed a season-high seven earned runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings in his last start, a loss to the Yankees.

Tomlin ranks second in the majors in walks per nine innings (1.15) and third in strikeout to walk ratio (5.56). He'll be making his first career start versus the Nationals, and owns a career .600 batting average (6-for-10).

The Nationals meanwhile are suddenly struggling to score runs, winning 1-0 on Sunday before Tuesday's loss.

Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh before surrendering two runs. Jayson Werth's homer cut the deficit to one before the Indians added a run in the ninth.

"It went from a no-hitter to a loss in a matter of time and we couldn't muster too much offense," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We hit a couple balls hard, but they hit a couple balls hard also. It was a well-played and well-pitched game."

Perhaps it's no coincidence that Washington was again without Bryce Harper, who's now missed two straight games with a stiff neck.

"He's been getting worked on and stuff," Baker said. "Anybody that's had a stiff neck realizes how tough that is, especially to swing. He's on a day-to-day basis."

The reigning National League MVP, Harper is hitting just .233, but is second on the team with 20 homers and third with 57 RBIs.

Werth also drew a walk in Tuesday's loss as he extended his on-base streak to 39 games.

Washington starter Gio Gonzalez (7-9, 4.13) has been resurgent of late. He enters with a 3-1 record and a 2.03 ERA in his last five starts, including 6 1/3 innings with just two earned runs allowed in a no-decision at Cleveland on July 16.

Gonzalez, the former Oakland Athletic, has enjoyed facing the Indians. In eight career starts against them, he's 5-0 with 1.07 ERA, though only one of those meetings has come since 2013.

He'll have to contend with a red-hot Jose Ramirez. Hitting in the fourth spot, Ramirez drove in two runs with two hits Tuesday night, stole a base and scored a run.

"He's been doing it all year," Mills said after the game. "He was hitting cleanup tonight for a reason."

In his last 15 games, Ramirez is batting .407 (22-for-54) with five doubles, two home runs, five RBIs, 10 runs scored and eight stolen bases.

One question mark for Cleveland is the status of its manager. Mills said Francona, who had expressed discomfort during his pregame media session, was examined at the ballpark.

"He started feeling ill. I know the doctors checked him out and so forth and they just felt it'd be better for him to go back to the hotel and he did," Mills said.

"Knowing him he was probably really agonizing during the game, but I think he's doing fine hopefully and we'll see how it works out for tomorrow."

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