Detroit — It used to be different. Once upon a time, not all that long ago, either, the Tigers were the big brother in this rivalry. They were the team the Indians chased.
Hard to imagine that was ever the case.
The Indians thumped their little brother on the noggin again Tuesday night, repeatedly, cruising to a 10-1 win in the first of a three-game set at Comerica Park.
The Tigers have lost 12 straight games to the Indians this season. That’s one off the 13 straight losses they absorbed over the 1996 and 1997 seasons — which is the longest streak in this series. Since Sept. 1, 2017, the Tigers are, gulp, 7-33 against the Cleveland baseball team.
"No, I didn't think about that until you just told me," said Ronny Rodriguez, who grew up in the Indians' organization. "But, no, I mean, this is a game. This is baseball. We know this game is tough."
The Tigers did get one break on Tuesday — Miguel Cabrera took himself out of the game in the sixth inning with tightness in his left biceps. But he said after the game that he was feeling good.
"He said he was fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He just wasn't feeling it in the game and didn't want to do something silly. So he took himself out, which is fine. After, he said he was fine."
Cabrera missed three and a half months of the season last year after having surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in that left biceps. Gardenhire said the tightness was not related to the surgery, but Cabrera has said on several occasions throughout the season that the strength in the left arm still hadn't come all the way back.
The tightness he felt Tuesday was likely related to the fatigue in the bicep.
The Tigers didn't put up much of a fight in this one. They struck out 15 times against four Indians pitchers. Starter Adam Plutko punched-out a career-high nine and allowed just three hits in 5.2 innings.
The Tigers' lone run came in the second inning on a double by Dawel Lugo and single by Rodriguez. By that time, they were already in a 3-0 hole.
"Every time we missed a play it ended up costing us runs," Gardenhire said.
Starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull gave up three runs with two out in the first inning. By all rights, it should have been a clean inning. No. 3 hitter Carlos Santana hit a line drive at second baseman Rodriguez, who was playing in shallow right field.
He was in position to make the catch, but the ball eluded him.
"I know it was hit hard, but you're supposed to make that play," Gardenhire said.
Rodriguez agreed: "I don't make excuses," he said. "He hit it hard and I missed the ball."
Yasiel Puig hit the next pitch to the wall in center field, an RBI double. And Jason Kipnis followed with a two-run home run to left field in what ended up being a 26-pitch first inning for Turnbull.
The Tigers gave the Indians an extra out in the third inning, and they paid for that one, too. Santana hit a high foul ball outside of third base. Lugo overran the ball and it dropped about 10 yards away from him.
Santana worked the count full then lashed a double. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Freeman.
For Turnbull, who now has 13 losses in his rookie season, it was another laborious outing. He went five innings on 98 pitches and allowed the four runs on seven hits, two walks and a hit batsman.
"It was a long process for him," Gardenhire said. "He was misfiring all over the place. He's still trying to find it. Long innings, behind in the count a lot — one of those tough ones for him.
"He's trying to figure it all out and get back to where he was. He's struggling right now. I don't think he trusts his stuff like he normally does."
Turnbull said he thought his stuff was better. The location, though, remains spotty.
"That first inning got me pretty good," he said. "My biggest frustration is with the pitch-count. It's tough. I've got to be better. I've got to be able to put guys away quicker and make them put the ball in play."
Things got much worse for his replacement. The Indians scored five times against Nick Ramirez in the top of the seventh to blow the game open. Again, an error opened the door.
With two on and two outs, Ramirez couldn't field a slow roller from Kipnis.
"Nick missed that tapper and then he didn't cover first base," Gardenhire said. "And it turns into a big inning. That's what normally happens, especially against a team like that.
"It's frustrating because we had been playing good defense."
The runs were technically unearned, which is hard to say when they came on two home runs that traveled a combined distance of 871 feet. Franmil Reyes blasted a 436-footer into the shrubbery in center field, a three-run blast. Two batters later, Roberto Perez hit one 435 feet down the line in left, a two-run shot.
The Tigers have been tagged for 109 home runs at Comerica Park this season, the most they've allowed since it opened in 2000.
Here's something else to consider, too. The Tigers need to go 5-15 in their final 20 games at Comerica to avoid the ignominy of becoming the first team in the modern era of baseball to lose 60 home games in a season.
Fortunately for them, only two more of those games are against the Indians.