Tigers stall Indians title push
Cleveland — The Indians had the champagne on ice somewhere in the back of their clubhouse.
If they beat the Tigers on Friday night, and the Twins lost in Kansas City, the Indians could celebrate their third straight American League Central Division title. The Tigers didn’t get the memo.
Jeimer Candelario, who led off the game with his 19th home run, doubled in a run in a tworun seventh inning and the Tigers doused the Indians’ party plans, 5-4.
The win ended a 10-game losing streak at Progressive Field for the Tigers, dating to last September.
The Indians had just tied the score at 2 in the bottom of the sixth when rookie Dawel Lugo doubled off reliever Adam Cimber and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Pete Kozma.
Indians manager Terry Francona summoned All-Star reliever Andrew Miller, making his third appearance since coming off the disabled list.
Candelario banged his first pitch off the left-field wall to break the tie.
After Christin Stewart was safe on a fielder’s choice — Candelario was thrown out at third — Nick Castellanos, who produced his 51st multi-hit game of the year, walked.
That set the stage for Victor Martinez. Playing his final series at Progressive Field, where his career began with the Indians in 2002, Martinez lashed a double to score Stewart.
In 472 games before his two hits Friday, Martinez had hit .296/.377/.453 with an .830 OPS, with 51 home runs and 288 RBIs at Progressive.
The Tigers entrusted the tworun lead to rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who, in his major-league debut, put the Indians down in order in the seventh inning.
With a fastball that was ringing in at 95-96 mph, Turnbull, who is expected to get a start or two in the final weeks, struck out Yan Gomes and got ground outs from Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor.
The Tigers stole the fifth run. More accurate, JaCoby Jones stole it. He beat out an infield single and stole second. Reliever Neil Ramirez struck out Lugo, but the ball got past catcher Gomes.
Jones sped around third and didn’t stop when Gomes threw to first to complete the strikeout. Jones slid around the tag attempt by Ramirez. It turned out to be a valuable run.
After Joe Jimenez stuck out two in a clean eighth inning, the Indians put runners at the corners with no outs against closer Shane Greene.
Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to deep center field cut the lead to 5-3.
A ground ball single to right by Gomes put the tying runs on base. Speedy former Tiger Rajai Davis ran for Gomes at first.
Kipnis hit what looked like a double-play grounder to first, but Ronny Rodriguez bobbled it. He got the out at first by the fourth run crossed the plate and Davis was at second with the tying run.
That brought up Lindor. With left-handed hitting Michael Brantley on deck, the Tigers opted to pitch to Lindor.
Greene got Lindor to fly out to right, earning his 29th save.
The first five innings belonged to starter Matthew Boyd. He allowed just one hit and seven strikeouts and took a 2-0 lead into the sixth.
But the Indians are nothing if not explosive. And with one out in the sixth, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson each sent fastballs from Boyd into the leftfield seats.
Encarnacion hit a first-pitch fastball, Donaldson a 3-0 fastball — both read 91 mph on the radar gun and both were in up and over the plate.
Those two pitches marred what had been a strong outing by Boyd. It was the eighth start in his last 11 that he allowed three runs or less. And in eight career starts against the powerful Indians offense, he’s only once allowed more than three runs.
That was the last time he pitched at Progressive Field, on June 24 when the Indians beat him up for six runs in three innings.
Boyd gave notice that it was going to be different on this night in the first inning. After Lindor singled and romped to third after the ball scooted by left fielder Stewart (two-base error), Boyd stranded him there.
He struck out Michael Brantley (looking), Encarnacion (swinging) and Donaldson (looking).
Drew VerHagen (3-2) earned the win by getting the last two outs of the sixth inning.
Candelario got the Tigers going, hitting the third pitch of the game from Indians starter Josh Tomlin 422 feet into the seats in right field.
Doubles by Jim Adduci and Jones made it 2-0 in the fourth.
Jeimer Candelario, right, celebrates with third base coach Dave Clark after hitting a solo home run.