DETROIT -- The Indians' hangover from their American League Central title clincher Monday was a precursor to the onslaught from the Tigers, whose fight for a postseason berth rolls on. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton hit three-run home runs, part of a five-RBI game for Cabrera, as Justin Verlander tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 12-0 Tigers victory Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
The end of Detroit's three-game losing streak, combined with Baltimore's loss at Toronto, crept the Tigers back within a game of the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Tigers' elimination number remains at five with five games left to play.
"That's why we don't worry about yesterday," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We're one game back. You'd rather be one of the two teams in the Wild Card, but if you're one game back, anything can happen."
The Indians eliminated the Tigers from the division race Monday by clinching their first AL Central title since 2007, so manager Terry Francona rested several of his regulars behind rookie starter Mike Clevinger. The Tigers pressed on, scoring five runs in two innings off Clevinger (2-3) before breaking the game open with three-run rallies in the seventh and eighth.
Verlander (16-8), who picked up a no-decision after dealing seven scoreless innings in Cleveland a week and a half ago, cruised with the support and mowed down the makeshift Indians lineup, racking up a season-high 12 strikeouts while limiting Cleveland to four hits.
"It's actually kind of tough that way," Verlander said. "Bunch of guys in there I don't know at all, just trying to figure it out on the fly when I'm out there, just read swings and stuff. In the end, if you execute your pitches, most times you'll get guys out."
The loss cost Cleveland (91-66) a chance to gain ground on the Red Sox (92-65) in the battle for home-field advantage. The Indians are one game back of Boston, which lost on Tuesday, and 1 1/2 games back of Texas (93-65), which won.
"Our guys are going to play," said Francona, when asked if his regulars would get more rest down the stretch. "They had the night off tonight, and I thought they deserved it. We'll play."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Miggy strikes early: Not even a Verlander pickoff throw off the right kneecap could stop Cabrera on Tuesday. After his two-run double to the wall in right-center field opened the scoring in the first inning, Cabrera delivered a bigger impact off Clevinger with a drive off the top of the front shrubs in center. Statcast™ projected the three-run homer at 444 feet. More >
"It helps a lot when you've got one of the best pitchers in the game on the mound and you spot him a five-run lead early," Ausmus said. "You certainly feel good about where you are. You're never comfortable about where you are, but you feel good about where you are."
Clevinger's early exit: With starters Corey Kluber (quadriceps), Danny Salazar (right forearm) and Carlos Carrasco (fractured right hand) all banged up, Clevinger's outings are under the microscope as the postseason approaches for the Tribe. The rookie righty lasted only two innings and 43 pitches against the Tigers, with all the damage coming via Cabrera's bat. It was a step backward for Clevinger, who had been making strides of late (3.07 ERA and .204 opponents' average in his last 14 2/3 innings).
"I wasn't there mentally," said Clevinger, who will move back to the bullpen for the rest of the regular season. "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."
Upton, up and away: The Tigers were already comfortably ahead when Upton stepped to the plate in the seventh, but while his latest home run wasn't as clutch as his recent drives, it was majestic. He hit it at a 39-degree angle, sending a projected 398-foot drive down the left-field line for a 9-0 lead. Upton's 29th home run of the season was his 16th since Aug. 21.
Castellanos returns: Hours after going 2-for-3 in an intrasquad game at instructional league in Lakeland, Fla., Nick Castellanos flew to Detroit, returned from the disabled list and arrived at Comerica Park in time to get a pinch-hit opportunity in the eighth inning. He doubled down the left-field line in his first Major League at-bat since Aug. 6, then played the ninth inning at third base. More >
"I got to the ballpark in the sixth inning and I made it down right before Upton hit his home run," Castellanos said. "I was getting undressed and dressed as fast as I could."
"Every time a guy like Erik plays, he's going to grow from it. And I know two of them were swinging bunts, but still, it's good for him. He played a nice shortstop. There's always something to kind of hang your hat on when the younger guys play." -- Francona, on rookie shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who went 3-for-3 while filling in for Francisco Lindor
"Obviously it stinks to see a team celebrate on your home turf, but we got other things going on here. Obviously, you'd like to win your division, but we're right in the hunt for a Wild Card, so you can't let that get to you, just come out today and tomorrow. We've only got, what, five more? So you can't get down on yourself for one game." -- Verlander, on rebounding from Monday's loss
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Cabrera's home run earned him his 12th 100-RBI season overall, and his eighth with the Tigers. The 12 overall ties him for sixth on Major League Baseball's all-time list, trailing only Albert Pujols (13) among active players. The eight with Detroit tie Cabrera with Harry Heilmann for most in Tigers history.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: With an AL Central title wrapped up, the Indians have reorganized their rotation to balance rest and chasing down home-field advantage. For Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. ET tilt with the Tigers at Comerica Park, right-hander Zach McAllister (3-2, 3.58 ERA) will start for Cleveland in a bullpen day for the team.
Tigers:Michael Fulmer (11-7, 2.95 ERA) makes his final start of the regular season Wednesday, hoping to further the Tigers' postseason charge, finish off his attempt at an AL ERA title and avenge a loss at Cleveland two weeks ago. He could be the first rookie to lead the AL in ERA since Tigers legend Mark Fidrych in 1976.