Detroit Tigers' JaCoby Jones scores past Indians' Neil Ramirez after a wild pitch Friday during the eighth inning in Cleveland.
CLEVELAND — The Indians had an opportunity to clinch their third straight Central Division title Friday with a win over the Tigers and a loss by second-place Minnesota.
The Twins obliged, but the Indians weren’t able to take care of their end of the deal.
Cleveland’s offense was shut down for much of the night in a 5-4 loss in the opener of a three-game series in front of 26,592 at Progressive Field, but thanks to Minnesota’s loss was able to trim the magic number to one.
Cleveland was one-hit in a 3-1 loss Wednesday at Tampa Bay. Against the Tigers, the Indians managed only six hits — just one over the first five innings against Tigers starter Matthew Boyd.
They finally broke through against Boyd in the sixth, getting back-to-back home runs from Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson to tie the game at 2.
“He has good stuff,” manager Terry Francona said of Boyd. “He’s got plenty of fastball and he’s got a nice little breaking ball, a change-up to go with it. I thought he pitched really well. We were pretty quiet until all of a sudden a couple of the home runs gave us a little life.”
It was Donaldson’s first hit in seven at-bats since joining the Indians in a waiver-wire trade with Toronto and his towering drive to the Home Run Porch in left field was his first long ball since he hit two as a member of the Blue Jays during a doubleheader in Cleveland on May 3.
“It was nice. In that situation in the game,” Donaldson said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come up with a win tonight, but it’s a step in the right direction. Honestly, the coolest part about all of it is how the fans react and how my teammates have received me. Coming in (the dugout), everybody was so pumped up.”
“It’s nice to see and then he got the base hit in the ninth inning to start an inning,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Daonaldson. “He just needs some reps. He won’t play (today), but he’ll play Sunday and you know every time he plays it kind of feels almost like an investment. … He’s playing the heck out of third, just got to get him his at-bats.”
Detroit matched the Indians’ two-run effort in the seventh, scoring twice on doubles from Jeimer Candelario and Victor Martinez off left-hander Andrew Miller to go back in front 4-2.
“Once he got into the inning, I thought his stuff was the same as before — touching 94 (mph), good breaking ball,” Francona said. “I thought he left a couple pitches up and it’s still, that’s his third outing and you know I know he doesn’t like giving up runs, I don’t like when anybody gives up runs, but he’s going in the right direction. We’ll sit him down (today) and hopefully get him back Sunday and just keep building.”
Right-hander Josh Tomlin made his first start for the Indians since May 15, allowing two runs over four innings.
Things began roughly for Tomlin, who allowed a home run on the third pitch of the game to Candelario, and the next two batters to reach on a walk and single.
“Once he settled in I thought he was fine,” Francona said of Tomlin, who has allowed 23 homers over 59 2/3 innings. “By his own admission, he was a little overexcited, hadn’t started a game in a while. It’s a hard way to start — home run and first and second, but he settled down and threw the ball well. He was crisp.”
“I still made some mistakes over the heart of the plate, especially early on,” Tomlin said. “Made a bad pitch in the fourth inning to a couple of guys that ended up scoring. But for the most part I felt my stuff was crisper at the plate than what it has been early on in the year. It’s something to improve off of. It’s something to build off of.”
The Indians scored twice in the ninth inning and had the winning run at the plate in Francisco Lindor, who flied to right to end the game.