CLEVELAND -- A day after squandering an opportunity to clinch their third straight Central Division title, the Indians weren’t about to let another chance slip away.
With its magic number at one, Cleveland came out swinging Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field, scoring 11 times within the first two innings en route to a 15-0 shellacking of division rival Detroit.
When the final out was recorded, the Indians celebrated on the field before taking it to the clubhouse to toast another division championship that was pretty much a foregone conclusion since the all-star break.
“We had a little juice today and that was good to see,” said manager Terry Francona, who has guided Cleveland to four postseason appearances in six years. “All things considered -- we clinched at home, we did it in a convincing way, we pitched well, we hit well. It was just a great day all the way.”
“We understand we still have a long way to go. We still have 15-20 games,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “At least we know we’re going to be in the postseason. We had an idea we were going to be in the postseason for a week now, but still, it feels good to celebrate, give that little teaser to all the guys, like, ‘This is what could happen if you continue to win.’ Now we have to continue to compete day in and day out.”
The Tigers, who committed four errors and used seven pitchers, were ripe for the beating.
And it began early, with Lindor and Michael Brantley belting back-to-back leadoff home runs in the opening inning off Detroit starter Michael Fulmer, who left with an injury after surrendering the homers.
Fulmer departed but the runs kept coming for the Indians, who scored six runs in the first and added another five in the second, batting around each time. Cleveland scored at least twice in each of the first four innings, amassing 15 of its 18 hits over the span.
Everyone in the lineup contributed with each player producing at least one hit and an RBI -- the first time the Indians have accomplished as much since 1990.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger was the beneficiary of the wealth of run support, notching his 12th win of the season after allowing just a hit and striking out five over six innings. He didn’t surrender a hit through the first three innings.
With another title in tow, there was time for reflection in a joyous clubhouse filled with champagne and beer, but the Indians have higher goals in mind then raising another Central Division banner.
“This is step one, but we’ve got to enjoy the moment,” Brantley said. “You understand how hard everybody worked to get here. This is a group effort all the way around and I’m glad to be a part of it. We’re trying to build something special here, and I think we’re doing it.”
“It’s the fourth time in six years we’ve been able to do this,” right-hander Cody Allen said . That means the world to everybody here. We’ve got a lot of homegrown guys here -- a lot of guys who came up in the minor leagues together. And then everybody that’s come on board since Tito’s first year in 2013 that have just supplemented everything that Tito and Chris and all those guys have put into place. So to do it with this group is very special.
“But this is kinda the first step. We have our sights set on something bigger. We’ve earned our right to play into October, which is nothing to be taken lightly, but we want to play a lot (more) baseball.”
Francona said as his career has gone on that clinching a postseason berth has become more special and encouraged the postgame party.
“I want the guys to enjoy it, because sometimes they’re young and they think they’re going to do it all the time, and you don’t,” he said. “So, enjoy the heck out of it. We’ll let em blow off some steam tonight and we’ll probably have a little bit of a different lineup (today). We got a day off Monday and then we’ll get back to work, and I think it works out well that way.”
It wasn’t all positive for the Indians.
Edwin Encarnacion left the game in the fourth inning after turning his right ankle on the second base bag. But the Indians announced it as a minor ankle sprain, saying he was removed for precautionary reasons.
Francona said after the game that Encarnacion could have remained in the game.