Indians win Central, Tigers 2 back for wild card
Detroit — The Giants in 2012. The Orioles in 2014. And now the Indians.
Every two years, an opposing team throws a party on the Comerica Park lawn.
The Indians clinched their first Central Division title since 2007 Monday night, beating the Tigers 7-4.
“I don’t like it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But it doesn’t change anything. We still have a goal and that’s to get to the postseason.”
With six games left, the Tigers are two games behind the Orioles for the second wild-card spot. The task is becoming increasingly difficult.
“I love when people want to talk about odds,” Ausmus said. “Let's see what happens. We're going to play the games. These guys are trained to win. They are trained to forget about yesterday.
“Regardless of what people think the odds are, we're going to come here and try to win tomorrow. We don't really give a crap what the odds are."
A small but raucous group of Indians fans stood behind their team’s dugout chanting, "Let's go Tribe," as closer Cody Allen recorded the final three outs. Only a handful of Tigers stayed in the dugout to watch the Indians bounce in jubilation on the infield grass.
None of them were named Ian Kinsler.
“I didn't watch it,” he said. “Watch them celebrate? I don't care about that. … It’s not my celebration.”
The Indians are now 14-2 against the Tigers this season. Take out those 16 games and the Tigers have a better record: 81-59 to the Indians’ 77-67.
“I can't tell you why,” Ausmus said. “I don't know if it's matchups. If it's luck. If it's happenstance. I couldn't tell you…But the truth is, they've outplayed us, they've outhit us, they've outpitched us and they outdefended us. Simple.”
It was more of the same Monday.
Catcher Roberto Perez was the hitting hero for the Indians. He homered in the seventh off Justin Wilson and ripped a two-out, run-scoring single off Alex Wilson in the eighth to break the game open.
The seventh and final run came across in the eighth after J.D. Martinez dropped a slicing fly ball down the right field line by Carlos Santana.
The champagne was chilling in the visitor’s clubhouse at that point.
“A loss is a loss, whether it’s in April or if it’s in September,” catcher James McCann said. “Obviously they feel a lot more magnified because of what’s on the line. As much as it hurts to see them celebrate on our field, as tough as the last couple games have been, we’ve got to swallow it, and be ready to go tomorrow.
“We’re still right in the thick of things. If we can take care of business from here on out, that’s going to put us in a good spot.”
It wasn’t all champagne and roses for the Indians, though. Their ace right-hander Corey Kluber started but left after four innings with a right groin strain. The Indians are already without starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
The Indians said afterward that he was removed as a precaution.
A two-run home run by J.D. Martinez in the second inning was all the damage the Tigers did in the four innings against Kluber.
Kinsler had three hits and scored twice for the Tigers, both times he scored on singles by Miguel Cabrera.
Because of injuries and/or ineffectiveness of veteran starters Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey, the Tigers had Buck Farmer on the mound in this critical game Monday.
He had some control issues, but he battled his way through five innings — which was vital for a bullpen that was used for nine innings on Sunday.
“We needed him to go relatively deep in the game, just because our bullpen was a little weary,” Ausmus said. “And he was able to do that. But at times it was a struggle.”
He walked four, three in a 38-pitch second inning, which was highlighted by a two-run homer by Coco Crisp.
“Our pitchers kept us in the game and the (Indians) swung the bats really well,” Kinsler said. “It was back and forth, and every time that we tried to get back in the game, they seemed to score two runs. That's what good teams do. They answer when they need to.”
Kinsler was asked if every game from here out was must-win.
“We've been saying that for a week now,” he said. “We need to win all our games. So, it starts tomorrow.”