Fulmer, Jones injured as Indians steamroll Tigers, clinch Central Division

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer waits for Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley to run the bases after hitting a solo home run in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept.15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Cleveland — Pretty good advice from the old skipper after this one.

"It's just one loss," Ron Gardenhire said. "Just grab a beer, wrap it around your lips and then come back tomorrow and we'll try to win a series."

Beer for the Tigers, but there was champagne flowing in the other clubhouse.

While the Tigers were trying to pick up the pieces after the calamitous 15-0 loss Saturday, the Cleveland Indians celebrated the clinching of their third straight Central Division title.

BOX SCORE: Indians 15, Tigers 0

"Congratulations to those guys over there," Gardenhire said. "They did what they had to do to get into the playoffs."

Gardenhire spoke briefly to his team afterward.

"I just told them, 'It's one loss. It's not two losses or three losses,'" he said. "We got killed today. We had a bad day. But it's just one loss."

The first two innings took an hour and 17 minutes to play and the Indians batted for more than an hour of that time. They batted around twice, sent 21 batters to the plate, scored 11 runs on 10 hits, while the Tigers contributed with three errors, two walks and a hit batsman.

And that wasn’t even the worst news for the Tigers.

Starting pitcher Michael Fulmer pitched to two batters, giving up back-to-back home runs to Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley, before leaving with what the Tigers called right knee inflammation.

"None of the pitches he threw had any life," catcher James McCann said. "They didn't have the life on his pitches he normally does. I could tell he wasn't really using his legs. Whatever it was that was bothering him, I knew we couldn't keep going without at least talking about it.

"His health is more important than anything."

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Fulmer threw five pitches, his fastball topping out at 93 mph, 3 mph slower than normal. McCann motioned to the dugout for Gardenhire and head athletic trainer Doug Teter to come out. 

"He's a tough competitor and he wanted to stay in the game," McCann said. "He begged to stay in the game and get through the inning. But the reason I called Gardy and the trainer out is because his health is more important than anything and I could tell something was off.

"I didn't know what it was. But something was off."

Gardenhire thought Fulmer might have twisted his knee when he charged off the mound to field a bunt attempt by Lindor on the second pitch of the game.

"He wanted to keep pitching, but no way were we going to do that," Gardenhire said. "He tweaked his knee. We could see it was bothering him. He threw a couple of pitches that were like 91 mph. The catcher came out and said he's not right.

"Obviously, the knee was bothering him."

Fulmer, who spent more than a month on the disabled list (July 14 to Aug. 24) with an oblique strain, left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters. Gardenhire said it hadn't been determined whether he'd go back to Detroit for further tests, or have it done in Cleveland. 

He would have two more starts left before the end of the season.

"We have to get him checked out to see what we got here," Gardenhire said. "We're not going to screw with his arm. His arm is healthy. I'm not ready to sit there and say he's done for the year.

"He's a pretty tough kid. But I'm not going to let him throw out there with his push-off knee bothering him and screw with his arm."

Things went from bad to worse after Fulmer exited the game. 

This was not the major-league debut left-hander Matt Hall envisioned, for sure, hurried into the first inning after two batters. He faced 15 hitters and got just three outs.

"I went out and did the best I could," said Hall, who finished the Triple-A season in the rotation at Toledo. "I tried to execute, but they were swinging hot bats and the balls found holes,"

Some in his fielder's gloves. He was victimized by two errors — one by first baseman Jim Adduci and another by second baseman Dawel Lugo — on back-to-back plays.

The Tigers made five errors on the day.

Hall also walked two and hit another. 

"If we make plays, it's not a rough spot at all (for Hall)," Gardenhire said. "If we just catch the ball and get outs like we're supposed to, but we didn't. Then he got blooped to death and it snowballed."

Hall's debut pitching line: 1 IP (plus seven batters), 9 runs, 6 earned runs, 8 hits.

"That's just the game of baseball," Hall said.  "There are innings when everything goes your way and innings when they don't."

Everybody in the Indians starting lineup had at least one hit and one RBI. Jose Ramirez had three hits and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.

Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones was removed from the game in the fourth inning after he crashed hard into the center field wall chasing a triple by Ramirez. It appeared he had the wind knocked out of him, but he initially stayed in the game.

One batter later, he dived again on a bloop single. Teter didn’t like what he saw and took Jones out. The Tigers initial diagnosis was right shoulder tightness.

"JaCoby is fine," Gardenhire said. "He smoked himself into the wall trying to make a play."

The Tigers managed one hit in six innings against Indians starter Mike Clevinger — a fourth-inning single by Christin Stewart. They had two hits total.

"These games are really tough," McCann said. "They are as draining mentally as they are physically ... Usually in a (close) game there are positives to take away. There's not a lot of positives from today's game. 

"It was an old-fashioned butt-whipping."