That included the Tigers and that’s saying something because they entered the game with a 1-16 record against the Indians this season.
Through nine innings the Indians had eight hits, all singles, and were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
But sometimes all you need is a single. Yasiel Puig singled off the right-field wall with the bases loaded in the 10th to give the Indians a 2-1 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field. It was their 16th straight win against the Tigers this season and gave them a chance to move into the second wild-card spot.
It was the Indians’ seventh walk-off win of the season and Puig’s fifth career walk-off plate appearance.
The Indians (89-63) pulled to within four games of the Twins in the AL Central as they fell to the White Sox, 3-1.
In the race for the Wild Card Game, Oakland (92-61) kept its hold on the home slot. Wednesday’s win kept Cleveland a half-game behind Tampa Bay (90-63) for the second wild card spot. The Rays rallied past the Dodgers in 11 innings on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The Tribe has 10 games left to try and make the postseason for the fourth straight year.
The winning rally started when shortstop Willi Castro made an an error on Roberto Perez’s routine grounder to start the inning. Bradley Zimmer pinch ran and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Flaherty. Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked and Oscar Mercado hit into a force play at second to retire Lindor.
Right-hander Jose Cisnero (0-4) intentionally walked Carlos Santana to load the bases and bring Puig to the plate. Puig won it with his fourth single of the game on Cisnero’s first pitch.
The Tribe’s lineup was without injured Jason Kipnis and DH Franmil Reyes, who was at the ballpark but not in the starting lineup. Flaherty started at third, Mike Freeman at second and Jake Bauers at first.
“I said, ‘Wow, they walked to Santana and they’re going to pitch to me,’” said Puig. “I said, ‘I can finish this game. I tried to get the best pitch I could hit, make good contact and not try to do too much.’”
Rookie starters Aaron Civale and Spencer Turnbull were in charge for much of the night. Civale allowed one run on four hits in a career-high 7 2/3 innings. He lowered his ERA to 1.82 in nine big-league starts. Three of those starts have been against Detroit and he’s excelled in all of them.
Civale won his first two starts against the Tigers, but had to settle for a no-decision on Wednesday night. Civale finished the season at 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA against Detroit.
“I thought he was terrific,” said manager Terry Francona. "We wanted to keep him around 90 pitches and he got into the eighth inning with that. It seemed like he ran some deep counts, but he doesn’t have to throw a fastball in a fastball count.
“For a kid with his (limited) experience, that’s impressive.”
Turnbull entered the game with an 0-5 record against the Tribe this season. The rookie right-hander was 0-11 in his last 15 starts, but those numbers didn’t seem to bother him. He struck eight and held the Indians to one run on six hits in five innings.
“I love this time of year, but this is too close for me,” said Puig with a smile. “I’ve been to the playoffs six times. God has given me a lot of opportunities.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the third on a sacrifice fly by Victor Reyes. Jake Rogers hit a leadoff double past third and Willi Castro advanced him with a sacrifice bunt.
The Indians tied it in the bottom of the third on Santana’s two-out single. Flaherty, promoted from Class AAA Columbus on Sept. 1, opened the inning with a single. He took second on a wild pitch, but Turnbull struck out Lindor and Mercado. Lindor came into the game hitting .196 (19-for-97) with runners in scoring position, but Mercado was hitting .310 (27-for-87).
Santana saved the inning as he muscled a 96 mph fastball into short right center on a 2-2 pitch. It was his 90th RBI of the season.
Detroit threatened to take the lead in the fourth when Christin Stewart tried to score from second on Brandon Dixon’s two-out single to left. Greg Allen threw him out at the plate on a good tag by Perez. Stewart had reached on a one-out double to right.
Statcast clocked Allen’s throw at 100.8 mph, the fastest assist in the big leagues this year. It was his seventh of the season.
“One of the guys jokingly asked me how hard I thought threw that ball,” said Allen. “I said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe 88 mph, maybe 90 mph.’ He said, ‘No, no. no.’ Then I had a chance to see the Statcast on it. That was pretty neat. We’ll see how many bullets I’ve got left in the arm."
Civale felt the heat right away as Harold Castro tripled to center with one out in the first on a ball that Mercado should have handled a lot better. Civale escaped by retiring Miguel Cabrera on a bouncer back to the mound and Christin Stewart on a grounder to first.
Oliver Perez, Nick Goody and Adam Cimber followed Civale for the final 2 1/3 innings. Cimber (6-3) retired the Tigers in order, with two strikeouts, in the 10th.
The Indians are 17-1 against Detroit this season.
The Indians and Tigers conclude their season series Thursday. Mike Clevinger (11-3, 2.68) will face Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris (3-12, 4.62) at 7:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Clevinger is 2-0 against the Tigers this season and 7-2 in his career. Norris is 0-2 against the Tribe this season and 3-3 in his career.