Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire elected to walk Ramirez and load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the eighth inning. One could hardly blame Gardenhire, as Ramirez had already collected three hits including his major league-leading 23rd homer in the sixth.
But Encarnacion made the decision hurt, slugging a grand slam over the right field fence to highlight a 12-2 Indians victory in the final contest of a nine-game homestand that saw the Tribe go 7-2 against all American League Central Division teams and outscore the opposition, 60-24.
Cleveland's offense feasted on Detroit pitching, collecting a season-high 19 hits, including four home runs and going 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
The victory established a new season-high winning streak at seven consecutive games and increased Cleveland's lead to eight in the AL Central standings over the Tigers and Minnesota Twins.
Rookie Adam Plutko (4-1, 4.65 ERA) beat Detroit for the first time in two career appearances, and earned his third home win in four outings at Progressive Field. Plutko struck out four Tigers batters and did not allow a walk in six innings.
Plutko surrendered a pair of runs in the fourth after a leadoff double by Nicholas Castellanos and RBI singles from Niko Goodrum and James McCann. But the rookie fought back to retire John Hicks on a ground ball double play, and got Jose Iglesias on a line drive to Rajai Davis in center.
Ramirez became the first Indians hitter to lead baseball in home runs on June 24 since Albert Belle did so with 25 in 1996 (tied with Brady Anderson, Henry Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa). He entered Sunday's game one behind Mike Trout of Los Angeles and J.D. Martinez of Boston.
A base hit in the second inning extended Ramirez's streak of consecutive games reaching base to a career-high 31. It's the second-longest active streak in MLB.
Francisco Lindor doubled against Detroit starter Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.15) and scored on Encarnacion's RBI double in the first inning and smashed his 19th home run in the bottom of the fourth. The two-run shot gave Lindor homers in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, becoming the fifth Indians shortstop to accomplish the feat (Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Woodie Held, Ray Boone).
Encarnacion's grand slam was the 11th of his career. It gave the Indians designated hitter 18 on the year to go along with 53 RBI. Jason Kipnis added a solo shot in the eighth inning for his seventh.
What it means
The Indians are now a season-best 10 games over .500 and sit three games ahead of last year's pace through 76 contests. Cleveland held a half-game lead in the division at this point in 2017, and currently enjoys an eight-game cushion over the second-place Tigers and Minnesota Twins.
Plutko threw 90 pitches, 58 (64 percent) for strikes. Boyd threw 79 pitches, 54 (68 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Tigers and Indians drew 31,208 fans to Progressive Field on a partly cloudy Sunday afternoon. First pitch was at 1:11 p.m. with a temperature of 73 degrees.
The Indians embark on a 10-game road trip to St. Louis, Oakland and Kansas City. Mike Clevinger will open the trip on the mound Monday night against a yet-to-be-determined starter for the Cardinals. Sportstime Ohio and WLKR-FM 95.3 will carry the game.