Rookie Josh Tomlin pitched a four-hitter for his first career complete game, helping the Cleveland Indians avoid a 100-loss season and move a step closer to escaping the AL Central's basement by beating the Kansas City Royals 7-3 on Friday night.
Tomlin (5-4) allowed three runs, struck out a season-high six and walked two as the Indians snapped a five-game losing streak and crept within one-half game of the fourth-place Royals.
The Royals did little against Tomlin for 8 2-3 innings, getting just one run and three hits before Wilson Betemit hit a two-run homer in the ninth. Indians manager Manny Acta came out to visit Tomlin, but decided to leave him in to finish the job.
Jayson Nix homered twice for Cleveland and Shin-Soo Choo had three hits off Luke Hochevar (6-6).
As bad as they've been this season, the Indians (63-91) can't surpass 99 losses even if they don't win any of their final eight games, and they still have a chance to better their win total of 65 from 2009.
And, as bad as they were for a 41-year span between World Series appearances in 1954 and 1995, the Indians have never finished last two straight seasons.
Tomlin was recalled from Triple-A Columbus in July. After confounding the world champion New York Yankees for seven innings to win his major league debut, the right-hander lost three consecutive starts and struggled in a few other outings.
But he's shown signs of improvement, and although he wasn't on the radar when the season opened, Tomlin's closing it in the Indians' rotation with a chance to stay there for some time.
Choo, the AL's top player last week, continued to clobber Kansas City pitching. This season, he's batting .350 with 18 RBIs in 16 games against the Royals. He reached base all five times and showed off his speed by tagging and taking third on a fly ball to short center in the fifth and stealing second in the seventh.
Nix homered in the second and again in the eighth to make it 6-1.
Tomlin, who lasted just five innings in a loss last week at Kansas City, didn't allow the Royals a hit through the first three innings. But Mike Aviles opened the fourth with a double, moved to third on a fly ball and scored on Betemit's fly to deep left to make it 3-1.
That was all Kansas City could muster until the ninth.
Nix hit his 12th homer to give the Indians a 2-0 lead in the second. The ball made an awkward sounding thud as it came off Nix's bat and appeared headed toward left for an out, but it carried in the unseasonably warm early fall air over the fence.
Cleveland pushed it to 3-0 in the third on Travis Hafner's run-scoring single.
Notes: Indians closer Chris Perez returned to his home in Florida to be with his expectant wife, Melanie, who is pregnant with the couple's first child. ... The Royals activated RHP Kanekoa Texeira (strained elbow) from the 15-day disabled list. He had been out since Aug. 29. He's 1-1 with a 4.84 ERA in 43 games since being claimed on waivers from Seattle on June 3. ... Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits. He was back after missing three games with a jammed left wrist. ... Indians CF Michael Brantley sat out with a strained left hamstring. Acta said Brantley might be available Saturday.