CLEVELAND (AP) – Unchallenged for months, the Cleveland Indians clinched their third straight AL Central title with a 15-0 blowout on Saturday of the Detroit Tigers, who made four errors and managed only two hits.
Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley connected for back-to-back homers in the first inning off Michael Fulmer (3-12), Jose Ramirez had three hits and the Indians built an 11-0 lead after two on the way to becoming the first team to clinch a division championship.
It’s the initial step toward an October when Cleveland will try to win its first World Series since 1948 – the longest drought in the majors. After so many close calls, the Indians believe this is their year.
Cleveland Indians’ Brandon Barnes celebrates after the Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers 15-0 to clinch the American League Central Division, in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland’s current three-year reign in the Central is the club’s longest since winning five straight from 1995-99. The Indians became the first team this year to clinch a division and the second assured of the postseason after Boston, which will be no worse than a wild card.
Mike Clevinger (12-8) allowed one hit in six innings, and Yonder Alonso added a two-run homer as Cleveland’s offense awakened from a late-season slump.
RED SOX 5, METS 3
BOSTON (AP) – Pinch-hitter Brock Holt drove a tiebreaking double off the Green Monster on the first pitch after Jackie Bradley Jr. hit one off the very top of the left-field wall, helping Boston lower its magic number to five.
Rick Porcello (17-7) earned his 10th straight interleague victory, pitching five innings of two-hit ball as the Red Sox improved their major league-best record to 102-47. Steve Pearce had three hits for Boston, and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 41st save.
The Mets, who had won four straight, took a 3-1 lead on Brandon Nimmo’s three-run homer in the fourth. With two on in the fifth, Bradley lined a ball that bounced off the top edge of the wall and up, back toward the field. Although the umpires signaled for him to circle the bases, Bradley was sent back to second base when replays showed it didn’t completely clear the red line that signifies a homer.
Paul Sewald (0-6) intentionally walked Rafael Devers, Drew Smith replaced Sewald, Holt hit for Sandy Leon and, on the first pitch, lined one off the Monster in left-center to score both runners and make it 5-3.
Boston’s 102 wins is third-most in franchise history, passing the 1915 World Series championship team.
DODGERS 17, CARDINALS 4
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Yasiel Puig homered three times and had a career-high seven RBIs, giving him five homers in two games, and Los Angeles moved ahead of St. Louis into sole possession of the second National League wild card.
Puig hit a solo homer in the fourth off John Gant (7-6) and three-run drives in the fifth against Mike Mayers and in the seventh versus Luke Weaver. Puig raised his season total to 21 homers with the first three-homer game of his major league career. He became the fourth Dodgers hitter since 2000 with consecutive multihomer games after Cody Bellinger, Adrian Beltre, and Shawn Green.
Bellinger hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Weaver and had a career-high six RBIs. The defending NL champions have won four consecutive games and nine of their last 14.
Rich Hill (9-5) allowed four runs, two hits and four walks in five innings, improving to 3-1 in seven starts against the Cardinals, who have lost four straight games for the third time this season.
NATIONALS 7, BRAVES 1
ATLANTA (AP) – Washington 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto become the youngest player to steal three bases in a game, had an RBI single and scored the tiebreaking run as Washington stopped Atlanta’s season-best, six-game winning streak.
Soto hit an RBI single in the first inning and stole second, then walked in the fourth, stole two bases and came home on a bases-loaded walk for a 2-1 lead. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he surpassed the mark set by Oakland’s Rickey Henderson at 20 years, 241 days on Aug. 23, 1979, against Cleveland,
Soto also extended his on-base streak to 20 consecutive games, one night after joining Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline as the only teenagers to reach safely in 19 straight.
Washington starter Jeremy Hellickson left after re-injuring his right wrist while batting in the fourth inning. Hellickson had been sidelined by a sprained right wrist and was making his first start since Aug. 15.
Jefry Rodriguez (3-2) relieved to start the bottom half and pitched 4 2/3 hitless innings.
CUBS 1, REDS 0
CHICAGO (AP) – Jon Lester allowed two hits over seven innings with a season-high nine strikeouts, Willson Contreras hit a run-scoring single in the sixth inning and Chicago maintained its NL Central lead.
Seeking their third straight division title, the Cubs entered 1½ games ahead of second-place Milwaukee. Chicago has won three straight and four of five.
Lester (16-6) is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his last six starts, following a mid-season slump. A day after saying closer Pedro Strop has a hamstring strain that will cause him to miss the rest of the regular season, four pitchers combined for two-hit relief.
Cody Reed allowed two hits and struck out a career-high 10 in five innings, matching his longest outing this season.
Cleveland Indians’ Yonder Alonso slides safely into home plate as Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann looks for the ball in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept.15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Brad Hand, right, is congratulated by catcher Eric Haase after defeating the Detroit Tigers 15-0 in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept.15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer celebrates in the clubhouse after the Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers 15-0 to clinch the American League Central Division, in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept.15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Indians’ Edwin Encarnacion celebrates in the clubhouse after the Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers 15-0 to clinch the American League Central Division, in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept.15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)