DETROIT: 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 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
The final out — a strikeout of Cameron Maybin by Indians closer Cody Allen — set off a celebration at Comerica Park, where a wave of players and coaches ran to the mound and mobbed 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, 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 not immediately known.
In 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 by Miguel Cabrera to make it 4-3. In the seventh, Roberto Perez tacked onto the Indians’ lead with a leadoff, 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 — 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 Allen, who nailed down the final outs for the club’s 91st win to put away the rest of the division for good.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ