Party delayed as Tribe looks ahead to key series

Cleveland shut out in finale; One win in Detroit will capture AL Central

Party delayed as Tribe looks ahead to key series

CLEVELAND -- There was champagne on hand at Progressive Field on Sunday, but it never made it to the Indians' clubhouse. Rather than the sound of popping corks and jubilant shouts from within a plastic-wrapped room, there was only the shuffling of feet, hushed voices and bags being packed.

Cleveland knew what was at stake. The scoreboard kept flashing updates from the Tigers' game against Kansas City, and the players could hear the Progressive Field crowd roaring with delight at each Royals run. White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon just did not play along. He handcuffed the Tribe's bats and cost the Indians the chance to wrap up an American League Central crown by dealing them a 3-0 defeat.

For at least one more day, the Indians will wait to hold a long-awaited party.

"We know what the task is and we're prepared for it," said Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who pitched 6 2/3 innings on Sunday. "Hopefully, we get it done sooner rather than later."

Tomlin's K of Frazier

Courtesy of Detroit's loss to the Royals on Sunday, through, Cleveland's magic number to clinch the division was whittled down to one. Come Monday, the Indians will be at Comerica Park for the opener of a four-game set against the Tigers, so the Tribe controls its own destiny. One win over the next four days will seal the deal, sending Cleveland into October with its first Central title since 2007.

All the Indians were assured on Sunday was a share of the division. With a seven-game lead and seven games to go, a glimmer of hope is still flickering for Detroit. If the Tigers win the rest of the way and the Tribe loses out, they would tie for the division. That would force a Game 163 in Cleveland to determine who would enter the postseason as the kings of the AL Central.

The percentages are tilted in the Tribe's favor, but nothing is finalized, and history has shown that nothing is guaranteed.

"We would've loved to have done it in front of the home crowd," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "There's still a week [to go]. We still have two series, a week left, and we're talking about clinching already. So it's not a last day thing. It just is what it is."

The Indians still could have clinched at least an AL Wild Card spot on Sunday, but a win each for the Blue Jays and Orioles took that prospect off the table. As for the matter of home-field advantage, the Rangers (92-64) and Red Sox (92-64) each have a 1 1/2-game advantage over the Indians in the AL Division Series scenarios. As things currently stand, Texas owns the tiebreaker over Boston, so Cleveland would pair up with the Red Sox and open on the road.

Right now, Indians manager Terry Francona said the objective is simple.

"The itinerary says go to Detroit," Francona said. "We'll go where they tell us and play who they tell us and try to win. That's what we always do."

Cleveland could not get that done on Sunday against Rodon, ending the home portion of it schedule with a 53-28 record.

"We ran into a pretty good pitcher today," Tomlin said. "He had all of his stuff working and he pitched a pretty good game. Sometimes it's tough luck. Now, we've got to get on the road and try to get the thing done."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.