DETROIT – It may have taken an extra day or two for the champagne to freely spray in the Indians clubhouse, but Monday night the celebration finally happened.
For the first time since 2007, the Cleveland Indians can hoist a banner stating ‘Champions’ – as in champions of the American League Central Division.
It’s the third division title for the Tribe since 2001, and the 8th overall since the AL Central came into existence in that magical season of 1995. It’s the first for the Indians under Terry Francona.
While the division title is nice, the Indians are thinking much more than that.
There’s still work to be done to try and get home field in the first round of the postseason, and with six games left and sitting at 91-65, the team is in a dog fight with the Red Sox and Rangers for the best record in the American League.
For now they are guaranteed an American League Divisional Playoff series that will start on Thursday, October 6th either at Progressive Field or elsewhere.
The best bullpen in the American League was able to do what they do best, pick up the slack, going five innings allowing two runs as the Indians offense put the game away from an unlikely hero.
That hero was catcher Roberto Perez, who had two key hits in in the win, a solo homer that put the team up 5-3 in the 7th after Detroit closed it to 5-4.
He then singled to center in the 8th to score Coco Crisp to put the Indians up 6-4 after again the Tigers had closed it to one.
Crisp started the scoring in the Indians half of the second with his 13th homer of the season to put the Tribe up 2-0.
J.D. Martinez came back and tied it in the bottom of the inning with a two-run blast of his own to make it a 2-2 game, the only two runs Kluber gave up in his four innings.
A Jason Kipnis double and Mike Napoli sac fly in the 5th put the Indians up 4-2. Miggy Cabrera singled to center in the bottom of the frame after Dan Otero came in, and Ian Kinsler scored to make it 4-3.
After the Perez homer to make it 5-3, Cabrera again came through with a RBI single for the Tigers to draw it back to 5-4, but the Indians scored a pair in the 8th to put the game away.
Perez got a huge single to center to make it a two-run game, and then a fly ball down the right field line by Carlos Santana was dropped in fair territory by J.D. Martinez, and another run score to make it 7-4.
Andrew Miller came in after Bryan Shaw, and went 1.2 innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. Cody Allen wrapped up the title with a scoreless ninth to earn his 30th save.
The two teams will go at it again at 7:10pm Tuesday, with Mike Clevinger (2-2, 4.65) going for the Indians against Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.21) for the Tigers.