'Bad feeling': Tigers hit new low with 17th straight loss to Indians
Cleveland — Daniel Norris still remembers watching the Cleveland Indians celebrate their American League-record 21st straight win at the Tigers' expense back in 2017. It's been nothing but bad memories at Progressive Field these past few years.
"It's frustrating," Norris said. "We obviously want to end anything that's good for them against us."
They will have to wait until March to create something positive against the Indians.
The Tigers were shellacked Thursday in the season finale, 7-0, in a game broadcast nationally on Fox. It was their 17th straight loss to the Indians this season — the longest active streak against any single opponent in club history. The composite score of those 17 losses: 109-32.
"It bothers us, a lot, it does," said Drew VerHagen, who was charged with six of the seven runs. "I don't think it's to the point where we're tense because we want to beat this team. But leaving here getting swept is a bad feeling.
"It leaves a really bad taste in your mouth."
Detroit's 18 total losses to one team in a season ties the club record, set back in 1929 and 1931. The Tigers have lost 10 straight games at Progressive Field.
Just one more: It was the American League-leading 14th time the Tigers have been shutout this season. Six of them have been against the Indians.
Good riddance Cleveland.
"We are young," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You are talking about kids, guys with less than two years experience; for most of them this is their first shot at it. You are talking about a young baseball team going up against a team that has a really good shot at making the playoffs.
"We're going to have some of these rough days. We've had a bunch already. You just hope we get better as we go along and gain experience."
It was loss No. 107 and it also took some of the starch out of what was becoming a pleasant late-season storyline for the Tigers — the NorHagen pitching tandem.
Norris did his usual strong, three-inning warm-up, limiting the Indians to a run and three hits. But it was a tough night for VerHagen. He had made six straight relief appearances of at least four innings without allowing more than two runs.
The Indians, though, barely let him breathe. He faced 11 batters, gave up seven hits and was charged for six runs.
"My stuff was up in the zone and a little flat," VerHagen said. "I think they also put some good swings on some decent pitches."
Yasiel Puig, who torched Tigers pitching for nine hits in the three games, doubled in a run in the fourth and Franmil Reyes swatted a hanging slider from VerHagen 433 feet into the bleachers in left — a two-run blast.
"The one to Reyes was a really bad pitch," VerHagen said. "It was a really bad slider. I threw him a good, first-pitch curveball then hung a slider right at his bat speed. Overall, I was just flat and up (in the zone)."
Francisco Lindor had a pair of doubles, a single and scored twice. Roberto Perez had two hits, including a two-run single off Edwin Jackson, who made his first relief appearance for the Tigers.
"This one will be easier to wash off because I didn't give up any free passes, I didn't walk anybody," VerHagen said. "I just got hit. If I'm challenging hitters and they're hitting my pitches, that's how baseball goes.
"I'm not happy with it, at all, but I was challenging guys."
The Tigers' best chance to make some noise in this game may have been the first inning.
Indians starter Mike Clevinger, the American League pitcher of the month in August who came in with a 1.48 career ERA against the Tigers, was out of sorts. Singles by Harold Castro and Miguel Cabrera and a two-out walk to Jeimer Candelario loaded the bases.
Pitching coach Carl Willis made a visit to the mound and there was stirring in the Indians bullpen. But with his pitch count climbing over 30, Clevinger was able to get Jordy Mercer to fly out to left field.
"That was our chance, pretty much," Gardenhire said.
It ended up being a 33-pitch scoreless inning and the Tigers wouldn’t threaten again until the fifth. And by then they were in a 4-0 hole.
Willi Castro and Victor Reyes singled with one out in the fifth, but Clevinger got Harold Castro to ground out to first and Cabrera to ground out to shortstop.
Clevinger ended up throwing six scoreless innings, finishing with six strikeouts. He has allowed one run in 20 innings in three starts against the Tigers this season.
Victor Reyes also tripled in the game, his fifth of the season. The Tigers' 39 triples leads the American League and is tied with Colorado for the most in baseball.
Reyes also made two diving catches in right field, robbing both Franmil Reyes and Lindor of RBI hits.
"It's not easy getting knocked around," Gardenhire said. "You just have to keep getting back up."