CLEVELAND — The Indians’ sprint to another division title has turned into a crawl.
Andrew Miller gave up two RBI doubles in the seventh inning as Cleveland’s march to a third straight AL Central championship was slowed by the Detroit Tigers, who beat the Indians 5-4 on Friday night to end a 10-game losing streak at Progressive Field.
The loss prevented the Indians from reducing their magic number to secure a postseason berth that has been a foregone conclusion for months. But Kansas City’s win over second-place Minnesota dropped the Indians’ number to one and they can celebrate with a win on Saturday.
Miller, making his third appearance since coming off the disabled list, relieved Adam Cimber (0-2) in the seventh, but couldn’t stop the Tigers from snapping a 2-2 tie.
Jeimer Candelario, who homered in the first off Josh Tomlin, doubled home one run and Victor Martinez also doubled off Miller, a former All-Star who has been on the DL three times and has not been as dominant.
Lately, the wins have been less frequent for Cleveland. The Indians are just 5-8 in September and are not clicking on all cylinders with October coming quickly.
“But it’s a long season and guys go through things throughout the course of the season,” said Tomlin, the Indians’ longest-tenured player. “We’ve all seen it. We’re all just trying to get on the same page, just trying to play out style of baseball as much as we can. Once it clicks and once we get on a roll, it should be pretty good.”
Down 5-2, the Indians scored twice in the ninth against closer Shane Greene, who finally retired Francisco Lindor on a fly to right with the tying run at second.
Josh Donaldson homered and went 2 for 4 in his home debut for Cleveland, and Edwin Encarnacion connected for his 31st homer.
Donaldson was pleased to contribute, even in a loss.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had this type of adrenaline going through my body,” said the 2015 AL MVP, who was sidelined for more than three months by a calf injury. “I’ve had to try to take a step back, breathe a little bit more, try to slow the game down. I’ve been pretty excited to be here and play the last couple games. To have a little bit of success tonight was nice.”
Drew VerHagen (3-2) got two outs in the sixth and Greene worked a shaky ninth for his 29th save.
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd held the Indians to just one hit until the sixth, when former Toronto teammates Encarnacion and Donaldson tied it with consecutive homers.
First, Encarnacion hit a towering shot into the left-field seats.
After returning to the dugout following his “walking the parrot” home run ritual, Encarnacion had just peeled off his batting gloves when Donaldson got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and lifted it over the wall for his first hit in eight at-bats with the Indians.
The moment was one Cleveland fans are hoping to see again in October from Donaldson, who was acquired from the Blue Jays on Aug. 31.
HEAD’S UP PLAY
Detroit’s JaCoby Jones scored what ended up being the winning run in the eighth inning on a daring play.
Jones was on second when a third strike went to the backstop. When Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes threw to first, Jones never stopped and scored with a headfirst slide into the plate.
“You have to have courage to be able to do things,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You also have to have speed and good instincts. He’s got those. That was really exciting. It pumped everybody up.”
Tomlin made his first start for the Indians since May 21, but was in trouble right away. Candelario connected for a 422-foot homer on the game’s third pitch.
It was the 23rd homer allowed by Tomlin in just 55 2/3 innings. Tomlin’s habit of giving up homers was one of the reasons he was dropped from the rotation earlier this season, and perhaps why his career could be coming to a close.
Gardenhire was able to laugh after being struck on the left leg in the dugout by a screaming foul ball hit by Brian McCann in the sixth.
“It hit me right in the calf,” said Gardenhire, who retreated to the other end of the dugout after being hit. “Not hard, but it hit me. That hasn’t happened very much. I wasn’t that fast when I was young, and I know I’m not now.”
Tigers: INF Niko Goodrum (bruised left quad) was not in the lineup and could miss several days. While playing shortstop on Wednesday, Goodrum collided with left fielder Christin Stewart while chasing a fly ball.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer will pitch off the mound Saturday as recovers from a broken leg that has sidelined him since Aug. 11. Manager Terry Francona said Bauer recovered nicely after throwing 20 to 25 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday and the team is encouraged by his progress. Bauer will soon begin a regular running routine and undergo another MRI.
Mike Clevinger, who is 6-1 with a 2.15 ERA against AL Central teams, makes his third start this season against the Tigers. Michael Fulmer goes for Detroit.