CLEVELAND — There was no fairy tale finish for the Indians on Thursday night at Progressive Field — just the final chapter of a nightmarish story.
Central Division-leading Detroit put the finishing touches on a four-game sweep, throttling Cleveland 10-3 behind another offensive onslaught and a stifling outing from Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer.
The victory capped a dominating series for Detroit, which beat Indians closer Chris Perez in the series opener, ace Justin Masterson in the second game, phenom Danny Salazar in Game 3 and then topped it off with an emphatic thrashing that left the upstart hosts with their tails between their legs.
The two-time defending division champs, who won for the 12th straight time, increased their lead to seven games over the Indians in the standings, beating Cleveland for the 13th time in 16 games and for the eighth time in nine games at Progressive Field.
“Tonight was a tough night,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose team batted just .196 and was outscored 25-11 over the four games. “It was a tough series. We got beat up a little bit. We’ll come out and try to do a little better (tonight).”
How bad did it get for the Indians in the series finale? Extra outfielder Ryan Raburn took the mound in the ninth inning.
The sad thing for Cleveland was that Raburn, who retired the side in order with one strikeout, actually pitched better than starter Zach McAllister.
McAllister began the game with two scoreless innings before completely unraveling in a decisive six-run third for the Tigers. He didn’t make it out of the inning, allowing five earned runs on four hits and four walks in a season-low 2⅓ innings.
“The first couple innings he was good,” Francona said. “In the third inning, he went out and never could reel it back in.”
McAllister appeared to be laboring and rarely used his curveball — a pitch that ultimately landed him on the disabled list for seven weeks with a right finger sprain — but Francona said he was fine physically and McAllister agreed.
“I just got out of sync,” said McAllister, who threw only 32 of his 61 pitches for strikes. “It killed me today. I felt great physically. I just had terrible command in that inning.”
The early run support was more than enough for Scherzer, who didn’t allow a run until the fourth and just two on four hits over seven innings. Scherzer improved to an AL-leading 17-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 23 starts.
It became a circus-like atmosphere when Raburn took the mound in the final inning, but he held his own in the first pitching performance of his career. He got the first batter he faced, Brayan Pena, to ground out before striking out pinch hitter Matt Tuiasosopo with an 89-mph fastball and retiring Hernan Perez.
“I was about as nervous as I was in my first major league at-bat,” Raburn said.
The Indians held a players-only meeting after the game, focusing on the resiliency that has kept them in playoff contention for much of the season.
“We can’t let it get us down,” second baseman Mike Aviles said. “We just have to keep our confidence level up and regroup. There’s nothing we can do about the last four games. The season isn’t over. We’ve got a lot of baseball to play.”
“We’ll be fine,” said Francona, whose club entered the night 2½ games off the pace in the wild-card race. “I believe that or I wouldn’t say it. I have a feeling that we’ll hang in there.”
The Indians are expected to make a move today, with reliever Preston Guilmet likely headed back to Triple-A Columbus. Guilmet, who replaced Mark Reynolds on the 25-man roster, was ushered into Francona’s office after the game by pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.
WHO: Cleveland vs. L.A. Angels
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Kazmir (7-4, 3.89 ERA) vs. Weaver (6-5, 2.90)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM