Cleveland – First words out of manager Ron Gardenhire's mouth when the media gathered into his cramped office inside Progressive Field Sunday:
"Meat Loaf, the band. What was their big hit?"
Ah, Two out of three ain't bad.
"There's your headline," he said.
The Tigers won’t be accepting any asterisks on their 6-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians here Sunday. Yes, it was a hangover game for the Indians. They'd clinched their third straight Central Division title Saturday night.
"We don't care," Gardenhire said. "We don't give a flying flip who they played."
For starters, the Tigers were still shaking off the welts from a 15-0 pounding on Saturday. Secondly, the Tigers' regular lineup these days features six players who spent the majority of the season in Triple-A and a Rule-5 rookie.
And third, wins against the Indians, particularly at Progressive Field, have been, well, elusive, in recent years. Series wins even more so.
"It says we don't ever give up," said outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who hit his eighth home run of the year off reliever Andrew Miller in the eighth inning. "Yes, we would have liked to sweep these guys and keep them from clinching the division title in front of us, but we took a series from the division champs.
"You want to take that and run with it."
It was just the Tigers' second win here this season. They are 16-40 against the Indians going back to the start of 2016.
"Yesterday is what it is," said Jim Adduci, whose three-run homer in the fifth turned the game around. "This speaks a lot about this team and the staff and everybody, to come back today, go back to work, compete and get a win."
The Tigers trailed 3-1 before scoring four times in the fifth against Indians starter Shane Bieber. Singles by Ronny Rodriguez, Jeimer Candelario and Christin Stewart made it 3-2.
Adduci then stayed on a slider from Bieber and took it to the opposite field, over the left-center field wall, his third homer of the season.
"I was just trying to let the ball travel," Adduci said. "I had two strikes, so I just wanted to keep the at-bat going. He left that one up and I ran into it."
Adduci also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, giving a career-best four-RBI day.
"They came back out like they have all summer long -- ready to play," Gardenhire said. "There was the same old BS that goes on in the dugout. They came to play. We needed that one."
Candelario and Stewart, hitting one-two in the Tigers’ lineup these days, each had three hits. Candelario has begun to reheat after scuffling for a few months. In his last 10 games, he’s hit .325 (14 for 43) with three doubles and three home runs.
Also encouraging, Francisco Liriano appears intent on finishing his season the way he started. He was the Tigers pitcher of the month in April, going 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA. And after struggling through nagging injuries and command issues since the All-Star break, he’s seems back on track.
He limited the Indians, albeit their "B" team, to three runs and five hits through seven strong innings. It was the first time he’s thrown a pitch in the seventh, let alone finish seven innings, since May 20.
"I was able to command the fastball," he said. "I was around the plate and I was able to put it where I wanted to. The guys made a lot of good plays for me, too. I got a lot of ground balls because I was ahead in the count and I could make my pitches."
He allowed five hits and none after the fourth. Of his 94 pitches, he threw 40 two-seam sinkers, and the Indians were beating that pitch into the ground all day. Liriano got 11 ground-ball outs.
That’s three straight strong starts for Liriano, who will be a free agent again in the off-season. In his two previous outings, against the White Sox and Astros, he’d allowed one earned run over 11 innings.
"It's important to finish strong," he said. "Not just for me but for the whole team. Just want to finish strong and then see what happens next year."