ST. LOUIS -- Behind a solid start by Josh Tomlin and some early run support, the Indians took the first of a three-game series from the Cardinals, 6-2, before 42,098 fans at Busch Stadium on Friday night.
Tomlin (3-3) threw seven innings -- blanking the Cards for the first six -- and allowed two runs on eight hits. Tomlin's only damage was a two-run pinch-hit single by Matt Adams in the seventh.
The outing was Tomlin's third longest of the season, and he allowed two runs or fewer in a start for the third time. He improved to 4-0 for his career in Interleague starts.
"The biggest key for me was being able to throw four pitches for strikes on the first pitch and trying to keep them off balance as early as I could," Tomlin said. "I figured everybody would swing early against me, that everybody knows I'm gonna throw strikes. For me, it's throwing a quality pitch down in the zone or a quality pitch out of the zone in situations like that."
The start was Tomlin's first career appearance against the Cardinals. Indians manager Manny Acta pointed to the Redbirds' unfamiliarity with Tomlin as one of the main reasons for his success.
"He can sneak up on people that haven't seen him," Acta said. "By the time they open up their eyes, he's in the seventh with 70 pitches, and that was the case today."
Efficiency was the name of the game for the right-hander, who threw 76 pitches -- 52 for strikes. It also didn't hurt that he got an early lead to work with, something that's been rare for Cleveland this season.
The Indians jumped on St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook in the first, as Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis both scored after hitting back-to-back singles. Cabrera scored on a Carlos Santana double off the left-field wall, and Kipnis came in on a groundout by Michael Brantley.
"My job at that point is to keep throwing up zeros as long as I can and let them keep doing what they're doing," Tomlin said.
Entering Friday's game, the Indians had been outscored, 49-26, in first innings this season, and they were 5-18 in games when their opponents score first.
"You don't want to be playing catch-up baseball, because no one is successful doing that," Acta said.
Westbrook, who was bounced from the game after allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits through six innings, spent nine full seasons in Cleveland before getting traded to St. Louis in 2010. Acta said knowing Westbrook was certainly an advantage.
"We're not loaded with power hitters, and being a little familiar with [Westbrook], we know that if you try to pull on him, you're gonna be beating the ball into the ground all day," Acta said. "The guys didn't try to do too much. They've been good about that. They know what we've got."
"It's just a matter of getting the ball down and making a conscious effort of doing that," Westbrook said. "I was able to do that after the first inning, but I put us in a hole."
Cleveland took advantage of an Allen Craig error in the fifth. Shin-Soo Choo hit a grounder to Craig behind the bag at first. Craig fielded the ball cleanly, but dropped it on the toss to Westbrook heading to first. Choo later scored on a single by Kipnis into right.
Johnny Damon hit a two-out two-run homer on a 2-2 pitch in the seventh off Maikel Cleto to make it 6-0. It was Damon's second home run of the year, and first since May 27.
"I was kind of shocked that I did hit it that far, normally I'm taking that pitch," Damon said of the slider he received up in the zone. "I haven't hit that pitch too well in my career, but fortunately today I did and we got some insurance runs."
Cleveland's 2-5 hitters were a combined 7-for-19, as the team collected 11 hits in total. Cabrera, Kipnis and Brantley tallied two hits each. Brantley's first knock extended his hitting streak to 16 games -- the longest active streak in the Majors. He has 17 multihit games this year.
Tomlin chipped in with the lumber, as well, going 1-for-3 with a single. Tomlin has three of the four hits by Indians pitchers in the last two seasons of Interleague Play.
"If you're gonna have to do it, you might as well be a baseball player," Tomlin said of swinging the bat. "You don't just give away at-bats, you go out there and do as much as you can to help your team win in a situation like that."
The Indians are now 13-5 all time against the Cardinals, including a 7-3 record in St. Louis. Cleveland now sits just a half-game back of the White Sox in the American League Central.
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.