Now the road to October gets tougher.
That’s Guaranteed Win Night as in the Detroit Tigers, losers of 107 games, including 17 straight to the Indians. No. 17 became a reality at Progressive Field by a 7-0 score that lifted the Indians (90-63) into a tie with idle Tampa Bay (90-63) for the American League Wild Card Game road position with just nine games left to play in the regular season. Oakland (92-61) leads both teams by two games for the home slot.
The Indians finished the season series against Detroit with an 18-1 record. In the 17-game winning streak, they outscored Detroit, 107-32. The 17 straight wins match the Indians’ longest winning streak against one team in a single season. The 1954 Indians beat the Orioles 17 straight times.
The 18-1 record is also the best record by any team against another in the 51-year history of divisional play in MLB history.
The Tribe trails the first-place Twins in the AL Central by four games. The Twins’ magic number to clinch the division is six.
Mike Clevinger (12-3, 2.54) did not start out razor sharp. He threw 33 pitches in the first inning, retiring Jordy Mercer on a fly ball with the bases loaded to end the frame. Clevinger recovered nicely to pitch six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and one walk. He ended the year at 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA (one earned run in 20 innings) in three starts against Detroit. Clevinger is 8-2 with a 1.65 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
The long-haired right-hander, who sometimes wears feathers in his locks, is 11-1 with a 1.90 ERA in his last 15 starts.
Clevinger received plenty of help from the offense as the Indians won their 90th game for the fifth time in Terry Francona’s seven years with the franchise. Over the last four years, they’ve averaged 94 wins a season.
Francisco Lindor, who came into the game in a 3-22 skid, had two doubles and a single in his first three at-bats. He opened the game with a double, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Oscar Mercado -- not sure why he was bunting in the first inning, but he was -- and scored on a shallow sacrifice fly to left field by Carlos Santana for a 1-0 lead.
The Indians made it 4-0 in the fourth on a double by Yasiel Puig and a long two-run homer by Franmil Reyes. Puig, with nine hits in the last three games, doubled home Santana, who reached on a leadoff single. Reyes, who missed two games to attend to a personal issue, drove his 35th homer of the season 433 feet into the bleachers in left.
It was Reyes’ eighth homer with the Tribe. The first 27 came with the Padres before the Indians acquired him on July 31.
The Indians added three more runs in the fifth to make it 7-0.
Lindor opened the inning with his 39th double. Mercado scored him with a single to center. Puig reached on a one-out single and worked a double steal with Mercado as Greg Allen struck out against Edwin Jackson. Roberto Perez, after Jackson walked Reyes, hit a two-run single to center. It increased Perez’s career-high RBI total to 62 after driving in 19 runs last year.
Lefty Daniel Norris (3-13, 4.58) allowed just one run in three innings, but that was enough to take the loss. He’s 0-3 against the Indians this season in his career.
The Indians shut out the the Tigers five times this season. They are 38-7 against Detroit since Sept. 1, 2017.
Twenty percent of the Tribe’s wins this season have come against the Tigers. But the candy store is closed. If the Indians are going to reach October, they now have to deal with the Phillies (three games), White Sox (three games) and Nationals (three games).
The Indians end the home portion of their regular season with a three-game interleague series against the Phillies. Right-hander Shane Bieber (14-7, 3.26) will face Phillies lefty Drew Smyly (4-6, 6.22) at 7:10 p.m. Friday. SportsTime Ohio, ESPN, WTAM 1100 and WMMS 100.7 FM will carry the game.
Bieber, making his 32nd start, is coming off a start against the Twins in which he allowed a career-high 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. This will be his first start against the Phillies, as he tries to improve on his 1-2 interleague record this year.
Smyly is 2-2 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 appearances, including five starts, against the Indians. He faced them once this year, allowing five runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings with Texas.