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Indians fall to Detroit Tigers 6-3 in rain-shortened game

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 28, 2016

The Indians were snake-bitten by Miguel Cabrera yet again and fell to the Detroit Tigers 6-3 on Wednesday night in a rain-shortened game that lasted only five innings.

The Indians and Tigers underwent two rain delays before finally succumbing to the weather.
Cabrera again proved why he’s one of the most lethal hitters in baseball over the last decade or so. The Indians and Tigers entered the bottom of the fifth inning tied 3-3. There had already been a 45-minute rain delay and additional rain, lightning and thunder were on the way.

With a tied game, had there been a delay at that time, the two teams would have had to either finish it on Thursday or come back on Monday. But, facing Joe Colon, Cabrera made that all moot, blasting a three-run home run to the opposite field to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead. Fewer than 10 minutes later, the inning was over, the game was now official and the tarp came onto the field for a second time. The home run—Cabrera’s 36th—came just in time.

Prior to Cabrera’s game-winner, the Indians took an early lead, lost it and then fought back to again deadlock the score.

Carlos Santana doubled home a run in the first inning against Tigers starter and American League Rookie of the Year contender Micheal Fulmer, making it 1-0. The Indians had a chance to add on in the top of the third, loading the bases with nobody out. But Fulmer retired Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall on pop-outs and Coco Crisp grounded out to end the inning.

Zach McAllister held the Tigers scoreless through two innings but was finished after the first delay. Cody Anderson entered and quickly ran into a buzzsaw. Brian McCann doubled and Jose Iglesias each doubled, and Ian Kinsler followed with a two-run home run. Seven pitches into Anderson’s appearance, he gave up three hits and three runs.

The Indians rallied in the fourth to tie it 3-3. Tyler Naquin—another AL Rookie of the Year contender—singled and scored on Rajai Davis’ single to left-center field. Santana then tied it with an RBI-single of his own to center field.

Wednesday’s result has positive and negative elements to it for the Indians. The Indians add a loss as they battle for the No. 1 seed in the American League. But, with the pitching staff barely being behold together, the Indians also save four innings of work for the bullpen.

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Tigers 12, Indians 0: Ryan Lewis’ 14 Walk-Off Thoughts on Corey Kluber’s status, Mike Clevinger

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 28, 2016

Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 12-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night.

1. The biggest takeaway from Tuesday came during the game, but didn’t actually involve the Indians’ post-celebration game—and the lineup that came with it.

2. Just before the conclusion of Tuesday’s game, the Indians announced that Corey Kluber has a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. His timetable to return to game activity is 7-to-10 days.

3. Counting Tuesday as one of those rehab days, Game 1 of the American League Division Series would fall on the 10th day. As long as he can stick to that timetable, Tuesday’s news means that Kluber’s Cy Young-contending regular season is over, but he should be ready to start Game 1 of the ALDS. Though, Kluber’s status will now be added to the list of growing concerns and things to monitor surrounding the Indians’ pitching situation.

More: Indians, healthy and not, celebrate a long road traveled together

4. Compared to how the Indians’ starting rotation would have looked in the ALDS if healthy, it feels as though everything is now being held together with Duct tape.

Game 1 — Corey Kluber, now dealing with a mild quad strain
Game 2 — Carlos Carrasco, out for the year with a fractured hand
Game 3 — Danny Salazar, likely to only be available out of the bullpen with a strained forearm, which could even be optimistic
Game 4 — Trevor Bauer, now the likely Game 2 starter or even Game 1 if Kluber isn’t ready
Available out of Bullpen — Josh Tomlin, now likely Game 3 starter

5. The Indians have their work cut out for them. They could ill afford another question mark with their rotation, but they got one Tuesday night.

6. Per Indians manager Terry Francona, Kluber could have a bullpen session or two between now and Game 1. Kluber declined to speak with reporters in the clubhouse.

7. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s starter Mike Clevinger was roughed up in two innings and is now heading back to the bullpen. Clevinger wasn’t listed in the possible starting pitchers for this weekend by Francona before the game, so it doesn’t appear to be a reaction to his outing.

8. It does appear to indicate two things: that the Indians feel confident that Corey Kluber will be ready to go for Game 1 or Game 2 of the ALDS, and that the odds that the Indians use a three-man rotation in the postseason probably went up.

9. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway has said before that Kluber and Bauer could each throw on three-days rest. They’d only need Tomlin to follow suit, and could potentially try to work around it. Though, if the Indians did need Clevinger to start a game, as Callaway pointed out Tuesday night, he’s stretched out enough that a 1-2 week stint in the bullpen wouldn’t disallow that possibility.

10. Callaway and Francona have also noted before that Clevinger’s stuff might not be at the same level in inning 6 as it was in inning 1. Maintaining his velocity has at times been an issue. Clevinger moving back to the bullpen will allow him to only have to worry about throwing an inning or two, in turn negating that downside.

11. Francona has had his hands full the last few weeks managing the pitching staff. It doesn’t appear like much relief is coming.

12. As for Tuesday’s start, Clevinger was roughed up by Miguel Cabrera—like so many pitchers have—for a two-run double in the first and a three-run home run in the second.

13. Said Clevinger, “I wasn't there mentally. I wasn't mentally prepared to come into this game today. That's all on me. It's more of an embarrassment on my part than anything. … I’d say the past, probably, 10 times out, I felt like each time was a step forward. To have this step back, it's baseball, but I think there are some things I can control that I didn’t.”

14. The shuffling of the deck in the Indians’ rotation continues. It doesn’t matter that the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park still smells like beer and champagne.

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Indians with post-celebration lineup fall to Detroit Tigers 12-0 The lineup for a club one day aft

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

The lineup for a club one day after clinching its division is often more-so built toward getting the starters a day of rest, either due to attrition for a long season or the celebration that took place the night before. The Indians’ lineup on Tuesday certainly followed suit in that pseudo-tradition, and Mike Clevinger was roughed up early in a 12-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Carlos Santana was the only every-day regular in the lineup, acting as the designed hitter, and he played only because the Indians ran out of players. Catcher Chris Gimenez ended up playing third base—he had logged five innings there in his career. Indians manager Terry Francona joked before the game that he “wasn’t thrilled about that,” but wanted to find a day of rest for the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli and others.

“I think today they’ve earned the right to—last night, they blew it out pretty good,” Francona said. “There is a balance there. But I think after 155 games, what they accomplished, they needed a night that where they can sit around and watch and enjoy, is good for them.”

The day of rest for so many might have worked out considering the Tigers quickly jumped on Clevinger and kept adding on later.

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Indians’ Corey Kluber diagnosed with mild quad strain; Rotation for rest of week shuffled

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

Indians ace Corey Kluber on Tuesday was diagnosed with a mild quad strain after he left Monday’s start after only four innings and 60 pitches.

It was announced then that Kluber left with right groin tightness, but an MRI on Tuesday revealed that he sustained a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. Per the club, Kluber is expected to return to game activity in 7-to-10 days, meaning his Cy Young-contending regular season is over but he should be ready for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 6.

It’s another level of concern surrounding the Indians’ starting rotation, which has been decimated with injuries in the last month of the season. They’ll be without Carlos Carrasco through October, and Danny Salazar will most likely, at best, be only available out of the bullpen in the ALDS.

The Indians officially clinching the division, along with Kluber’s injury, has shuffled the starting rotation.

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Indians, healthy and not, celebrate a long road traveled as one

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

As the champagne and beer flowed, covering every inch of the plastic-protected visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park, Michael Brantley stood just to the side, a calm smile on his face.

Others donned goggles and popped corks and, for all intents and purposes, went crazy like baseball teams tend to do after the Indians clinched their first American League Central title since 2007.

But Brantley stood just outside in the halfway, talking with guys walking by and sharing some hugs. Still rehabbing from August surgery, he has to be cautious.

“Yeah, I can’t get hit,” Brantley said. “I’ve got to look from the outskirts.”

But he was there, in Detroit, with his teammates to enjoy the party. It was important to the Indians that he, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar be with the club when they clinched and celebrated. It didn’t matter that Brantley has played only 11 games this season, or that Carrasco and Gomes are very likely done for the rest of the year.

“We wanted to make sure they were here for this,” said Jason Kipnis. “They’re as big a part of the team as anybody. You’re naming a bunch of our core guys. You’re naming a bunch of guys that got us this far. So, even if they may not be playing right now, they’re as big of a reason as some of the guys who are playing. They need to be a part of this. They need to celebrate. They need to enjoy themselves, because they earned it, too.”

Cody Allen delivered the final strike before joining the mob of players behind the mound. Once it calmed down, one of the first guys he hugged was Brantley.

“I know he hasn’t been on the field a whole lot this year, but he’s a huge part of this,” Allen said. “There are spots in the season where guys are down or in slumps and you could feel the thing going the wrong way and a guy like Brantley, his voice carries so much weight. He can pack it in mentally and physically and just focus on himself, but he doesn’t. He focuses on, ‘How can I help in any way, shape or form?’ Guys like that are special.”

Those who were hurt celebrated as they could. Carrasco partied with a water-proof seal over his cast protecting his fractured right hand. At one point, Gomes came up to Brantley—gingerly—and said, ‘We’re going to do it slow’ before sharing a drink.

It’s all Brantley was able to do during the celebration, but it did make him a part of it, just as it did for Carrasco, Salazar and Gomes. For much of it, he stood just inside the hallway peering into the clubhouse, looking as much like a proud parent as anything.

“It’s awesome,” Brantley said. “It’s an all-around team effort. We’ve preached that day in and day out. To be here, to celebrate with your teammates, with all the hard work all the guys put in together as one, I don’t know if there are the right words for it.”

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Indians 7, Tigers 4: Ryan Lewis’ 26 Walk-Off Thoughts on clinching the Central and a fitting night

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

Here are 26 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 7-4 Monday night, thereby clinching their first American League Central title since 2007.

And here are eight videos of the celebration, from the final out to the champagne-soaked clubhouse.

1. Monday night was a fitting end to the Indians’ race to the top of the American League Central. It was a back-and-forth game that included a starting pitcher leaving early, the bullpen taking over and the offense doing enough to pull away. It was also the Indians beating the Tigers for the 14th time this season, the most in any year since 1959.

2. Said owner Paul Dolan, “It’s been a spectacular year. It’s great to finish it here, it’s great to do it in Detroit. The team did it all year and they continue to do it. … The champagne smells familiar. But it’s been a while, so it never grows old. We’ve done it before, we just want to get a little further on in the process now.”

3. And, it was the culmination of a long season, one filled with significant injuries to key pieces in the Indians’ clubhouse. This team hasn’t had an easy road. Clinching the division on Monday night was a release.

4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, ”They deserve every minute of it. I want them to celebrate. They should be so proud of what they did. We're proud of them. It's hard. There's a lot that goes into winning a division. They deserve every minute of joy they have in there."

5. Celebrating on the Tigers’ diamond had some additional significance. The Indians and Tigers aren’t just divisional rivals, one has held down the other for three years like an older brother holding down his sibling. In 2016, the Indians have dominated the Tigers, a complete reversal of the recent past.

6. And for this team, one that has been knocking on the door for three seasons under Terry Francona, only to come up short in the division each time, it was a celebration four years in the making.

7. Said Jason Kipnis, “You know what? I’ve said it before. We had a little glimpse in 2013, with a bunch of the guys that are still returning, and the staff we had. In Spring Training, we were so certain that it was our year, that it was our turn. I don’t think you could convince us otherwise. As soon as we got ahold of first place, you probably saw the tightest grip on it ever. We never let go of it. That’s how much this team competed. That’s how much this team wanted it.”

8. One of the cool things about seeing that kind of a celebration is that everyone is there—everyone. From the owner of the team to the coaching staff all down the line to the players to the clubhouse guys. Everyone is pouring champagne and beer on everyone.

9. Said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, “It’s joy, it’s pride, when you think back to get to this point, so many people have helped when you think about all of our scouts, our player-development group, everyone in our front office, the coaches, the players, our trainers, our strength and conditioning coaches, everybody, our clubhouse staff, it’s really fun to be able to get to this point because it takes a lot of work and it takes a group effort.”

10. As I write this, I can’t get the small of champagne out of my nose. We’re all drenched in beer and champagne. While MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and I interviewed Corey Kluber, midway through a question he slid on his goggles. We knew something was up but kept going. Then came Trevor Bauer from the other side, Go-Pro on his head and all, to douse us both with a beer. Luckily, phones can still be used while in plastic baggies.

11. While manager Francona conducted a TV interview, Jason Kipnis and several others doused him with beer and champagne. As Francona walked away he jokingly yelled, “Next person who throws shit on me is playing tomorrow.” Several players laughed and ran away from him.

12. The Indians made sure that those who are injured—Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley—all were in Detroit for the celebration. Carrasco had a water-proof seal over his cast.

13. Said Kipnis, “We wanted to make sure they were here for this. They’re as big a part of the team as anybody. You’re naming a bunch of our core guys. You’re naming a bunch of guys that got us this far. So, even if they may not be playing right now, they’re as big of a reason as some of the guys who are playing. They need to be a part of this. They need to celebrate. They need to enjoy themselves, because they earned it, too.”

14. Added Kluber, “They’re still as much of a part of the team as anybody. Just because they didn’t get a chance to contribute in as many games as they want doesn’t mean they mean any less to the guys in here.”

15. Cody Allen sought out Brantley because of it, saying, “Brantley is one of the first guys I walked up to and hugged. I know he hasn’t been on the field a whole lot this year, but he’s a huge part of this. There are spots in the season where guys are down or in slumps and you could feel the thing going the wrong way and a guy like Brantley, his voice carries so much weight. He can pack it in mentally and physically and just focus on himself, but he doesn’t. He focuses on, ‘How can I help in any way, shape or form?’ Guys like that are special.”

16. Brantley began the celebration mostly watching from the side, calmly taking in the scene. He couldn’t get knocked around in the scrum. “It’s awesome. A lot of hard work pays off. We did a great job of playing this year and getting ourselves to the postseason. And now, we’ve got to look forward to the postseason. It’s a great time to be an Indians fan.” Yan Gomes then walked up, said, “We’re going to do it slow. We’re going to do it slow,” and shared a beer with Brantley.

17. Perhaps the quote of the night came from Allen on the final out: “I couldn’t even tell you. It was almost like when I asked my wife to marry me. I couldn’t tell you what I said, what happened. I was so nervous, so excited, all at the same time. It just happened.”

18. As for the game Monday night, the Indians had a bit of a scare with Kluber, when he left after four innings and only 60 pitches with right groin tightness. Kluber would only talk about the team and the season after the game, but considering the depleted starting rotation, losing Kluber would be a devastating blow to the Indians’ chances. Kluber certainly didn’t seem to be bothered by anything after the game.

19. The Indians were for the most part being cautious and will know more in the morning. Said Francona, “He’s OK. He had a groin that he was kind of fighting there. He felt it in the third inning and then he got through the fourth and I grabbed him and we went downstairs. I thought it was getting a little bit worse and it didn’t really look like it when he was pitching, but I told him, ‘We need to find a way to win a game. We’re not going to go far without you.’ So we need to let him get healthy so he can do what he does.”

20. The bullpen once again stepped up. Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen weren’t perfect but did enough to stay one step ahead of the Tigers, as the Indians’ offense did their part. Miller was bested by Miguel Cabrera for an RBI-single on Monday night. But he also worked a scoreless eighth. And acquiring Miller was one of the more aggressive moves the Indians have made in recent years. It’s also reshaped the bullpen into perhaps the league’s best.

21. Said Francona, “I thought it was a big statement to the players. Because of my job, I get to hear the conversations, so I knew that they were trying. When it got done, it gave everybody a shot in the arm. I think maybe one or two games he’s pitched in, we’ve lost. One was he was trying to get some work in. It was a big deal for us. We had to give up a lot, but we’re trying to win.”

22. Coco Crisp hit a two-run home run in the second and Roberto Perez, of all hitters, hit a home run in the seventh and added an RBI-single in the eighth. It was one of the biggest wins for the franchise in nine seasons, and it was a pretty accurate snapshot of the 2016 season.

23. Said Kipnis, “That was our M.O. We all pitched in. You had top to bottom lineup, everybody contributing, everybody hands on deck. That’s the way we needed to win games, and you saw that tonight.”

24. Now, the Indians can turn their attention to earning home-field advantage in the AL while also being able to rest players who need it. That includes setting up the starting rotation like they want prior to Oct. 6, which is Game 1 of the ALDS.

25. If the season ended Monday night, the Indians would be the No. 3 seed and travel to Texas for Game 1, while Boston played the winner of the Wild Card Game between Toronto and Baltimore. The Indians surely want that No. 1 seed, but now being able to figure a beat-up pitching staff in the right way will have its own benefits. That also isn’t mentioning the heavy workloads of Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and others, who now have a chance to an extra day off or two in the final week of the regular season.

26. This summer has been a wild one for Cleveland sports fans. For so many reasons, for so many people, the Cavs ending the drought was such a huge deal. Such a monumental moment that brought so much sheer joy and relief. The Indians will be entering the playoffs as division champs and in the ALDS for the first time in nine years. Cleveland fans might be able to enjoy this with a hint less anxiety, but all the same passion. See you on Oct. 6.

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Eight videos of the Indians' 2016 AL Central title celebration

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 27, 2016

The Indians clinched their first American League Central title Monday night, beating the Tigers 7-4. Here are eight videos from the celebration, from the final out to the champagne-soaked clubhouse.

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Indians top Detroit Tigers 7-4 to clinch American League Central title

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 26, 2016

Cleveland sports fans can keep on celebrating. For the first time since 2007, the Indians are American League Central champions.

Needing only one win in the final week of the regular season, the Indians secured a 7-4 win against the Detroit Tigers Monday night, and the celebration began at Comerica Park, a wave of players and coaches running to the mound and mobbing one another in hugs and high-fives. Then it turned to the clubhouse and a champagne-soaked victory party.  

It was somewhat fitting to finally clinch the division in Detroit, against the team that played such a significant role in holding the Indians’ down the last three seasons.

After trading two-run home runs, the Indians answered with a two-run fifth inning and remained one step ahead of the Tigers to support an extended night for the bullpen after a quick exit for Corey Kluber.

Coco Crisp came away with the first blow, belting a two-run home run to right field off Tigers starting pitcher Buck Farmer to give the Indians a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The Tigers quickly responded against Kluber. After Victor Martinez singled in the bottom half of the inning, Kluber threw an 0-2 sinker that missed its intended location, and J.D. Martinez hit just enough of it to send it over the right-field wall for a game-tying two-run home run.

The Indians couldn’t escape the night without some further concern surrounding their already-depleted starting rotation. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway in the fourth inning visited the mound to check on Kluber, who went on to finish the inning. He was then pulled prior to the fifth after throwing only 60 pitches. The club later announced Kluber left with right groin tightness. The severity of the injury was unknown during the game.

In the top of the fifth, the Indians gave the incoming bullpen a lead. Carlos Santana started the inning with a single. Jason Kipnis followed with an RBI-double to the gap in left-center field, making it 3-2. A sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli later extended that lead to 4-2.

Dan Otero relieved Kluber in the fifth but quickly surrendered a run on an RBI-single off the bat of Miguel Cabrera to make it 4-3. In the seventh, Roberto Perez tacked onto the Indians’ lead with a lead-off, solo home run. The Tigers answered in the bottom half of the inning. Andrew Miller was brought in to face Cabrera with a runner on third but lost the battle, allowing an RBI-single to cut the Indians’ lead to 5-4.  

Perez, an unlikely hero offensively, came through again in the eighth, adding an RBI-single off Alex Wilson to make it 6-4. Then, a gift from the Tigers, as Santana’s two-out flyball was dropped by Martinez for an error, allowing Rajai Davis to score to push the advantage to 7-4.

That was plenty for Miller and then Cody Allen in the ninth inning, who nailed down the final outs for the club’s 91st win, the one that put away the rest of the division for good.

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White Sox 3, Indians 0: Ryan Lewis’ 10 Walk-Off Thoughts on Josh Tomlin, going on the road again

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 25, 2016

Here are 10 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

1. The Indians will have to wait at least another day to break out the champagne. The Royals beat the Tigers 12-9, dropping the Indians’ magic number to one, but the Indians couldn’t complete the other half of the puzzle. In order for the Tigers to force a 163rd game for the division title, they’ll have to sweep the Indians in four games and then sweep the Atlanta Braves in three and hope the Indians are swept by the Royals to end the year. The Indians need only to win one more game this season, either in Detroit or Kansas City, or get one Tigers loss.

2. One of the loudest cheers of a quiet day for the Indians came when the Royals’ 4-0 lead over the Tigers was shown on the scoreboard. It’s impossible for players not to pay attention at that point.

3. Said Josh Tomlin, “A lot today because they were putting it on the scoreboard and you could hear the fans getting loud. It’s there. I’ll be honest with you. It’s there. You can see it. You can say you don’t see it but it’s up there. You see Detroit’s losing early in the game 4-0 and we have a chance to do this at home. So it's there, it’s very easy to look up there and kind of gaze and see if they’re winning or losing and see what we have to do.”

4. Indians fans knew it meant they might be able to see a division-clinching winner and celebration. But, Carlos Rodon had other ideas. He mowed through the Indians’ lineup to the tune of two hits and 11 strikeouts. Rodon has had the label of a young pitcher with a bright future for some time now. He’s lagged behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but Sunday was a snapshot of why there’s been so much optimism.

5. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “He's a young pitcher and he's getting better with starts. We've seen a lot of them because he's in our division. His off-speed is better, even his delivery is smoothing out and like a lot of young pitchers that have talent, you're starting to see him gain experience and he's pretty good."

More: Baseball world mourns the sudden, tragic loss of Jose Fernandez

6. So, the Indians will go to Detroit, the team that’s held them down for three years in a row, and try to secure their first division title since 2007.

7. Said Tomlin, “It’s a little fitting. But we have a resilient group in that clubhouse. We’re ready for the next challenge if it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, [wherever] it may be, we need to get it done. So we know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”

8. One of the lone bright spots from Sunday’s game was Tomlin, who took another step in putting his rough month of August behind him. Tomlin threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs—one earned on five hits. He took the loss, but in terms of his possibly starting Game 3 of the ALDS, it was another step in the right direction.

9. Said Tomlin, “I think it’s execution. Executing pitches when I need to execute them and when I miss I’m not missing over the heart of the plate for the most part. There are still times you’re going to miss over the heart of the plate but sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. But for me it’s just staying  out of the middle the plate with four pitches to try to keep them off balance, try to make them pick a direction to go to. Basically out-guess them, keep them off-balance enough to get them out in front of some stuff and if you leave the ball down the middle the plate, it’s a lot easier for a big-league hitter to do damage with that than stuff that’s on the edges.”

10. The Indians finished the 2016 regular season with a total attendance of 1,591,667. That’s an increase of more than 200,000 fans from 2015 and an average of 19,650 per game.

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Indians fall to Chicago White Sox 3-0, fail to clinch division in final home regular season game

By Ryan Lewis Published: September 25, 2016

If the Indians are to clinch the American League Central division, they’ll have to do it away from the friendly confines of Progressive Field.

The Indians needed to beat the Chicago White Sox and have the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers to officially clinch the division. The Royals did their part, winning 12-9 and dropping the Indians’ magic number to one. But the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon denied a home celebration, as the Indians mustered only two hits in a 3-0 loss on Sunday afternoon.

The Indians came up empty in their one scoring threat—in the fifth inning—and were otherwise quiet offensively. They struck out 14 times, which included the last six Indians hitters of the game and eight of the last nine.

Rodon threw eight innings and accounted for 11 of those 14 strikeouts. He’s been thought of as one of the brighter young pitchers in the division dating back a few years. Sunday was a snapshot of why.

"He's a young pitcher and he's getting better with starts,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We've seen a lot of them because he's in our division. His off-speed is better, even his delivery is smoothing out and like a lot of young pitchers that have talent, you're starting to see him gain experience and he's pretty good.”

The lone bright spot for the Indians from Sunday’s game was another positive start by Josh Tomlin. He allowed two runs—one earned—on five hits in 6 2/3 innings pitched and put his tough month of August further behind him. The Indians will be leaning on Tomlin in the postseason. After a rough stretch, Tomlin has looked more like his first-half self as of late.

“I think it’s execution,” Tomlin said. “Executing pitches when I need to execute them and when I miss I’m not missing over the heart of the plate for the most part. There are still times you’re going to miss over the heart of the plate but sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. But for me it’s just staying out of the middle the plate with four pitches to try to keep them off balance, try to make them pick a direction to go to.”

The Indians will now go on the road to Detroit for four games and then to Kansas City for three to close out the season only needing to win one of those games to clinch the division.

“It’s a little fitting,” Tomlin said, speaking of the Indians having to clinch on the road after the obstacles they’ve faced in 2016. “But we have a resilient group in that clubhouse. We’re ready for the next challenge if it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, [wherever] it may be, we need to get it done. So we know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”

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