The sweep lengthened the Tigers' first-place lead over the Indians to seven games.
Here are my takeaways from the series, where every game was tightly contested until the finale.
The Indians Can Hang with the Tigers
Three of the four games in the series could have gone either way.
Game 1 should have been won by the Indians. Corey Kluber (7.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K) was dominating for Cleveland, but Chris Perez (0 IP, 3 H, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 HR) imploded in the ninth and gave up a decisive three-run home run to Alex Avila.
Justin Masterson made three bad pitches in the fifth inning of Game 2 and those mistakes cost him dearly. He started off the inning by plunking light-hitting Ramon Santiago. With two outs and the Indians down, 2-1, Masterson then hit Victor Martinez to set up Don Kelly's back-breaking three-run homer.
The Indians' ace served up a meatball by grooving a fastball to Kelly, who crushed it into the right-field seats to give the Tigers a 5-1 cushion.
Other than those mistakes, Masterson was actually pretty good and ended up going two more innings.
Game 3 was a seasaw affair that saw the Tigers prevail, 6-5, in 14 innings after three lead changes.
Game 4 was really the only game that was not close.
The Division Crown Goes Through Detroit
Wins and losses are the bottom line. Even though the Indians played the Tigers tough in their series, they still lost all four games. If the Tribe wants to win the division this season or in seasons to come, they have to learn how to beat Detroit and turn potential tight losses into wins.
The Tigers are a dominating 13-3 against the Indians this season.
Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar Are Legit
The Indians will be without the services of Corey Kluber for possibly the rest of the season after being put on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday for a sprained right middle finger.
This is a huge blow for the Indians. Kluber (19 starts, 7-5, 3.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) has been one of the best and most consistent starters for the Indians this season, as Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti told the Associated Press (via ESPN):
Corey has been exceptional. It's hard to overstate what he has meant to our team.
Tigers skipper Jim Leyland also sang Kluber's praises to the Associated Press AP (via ESPN), saying of Kluber's injury, "That's a shame. That guy is one of the most improved young pitchers I've seen. That kid was really coming on. He's got nasty stuff. I was really impressed with him."
The 27-year-old Kluber had made huge strides from last season's campaign (12 starts, 2-5, 5.14 ERA, 1.49 WHIP) and could easily be 9-5 this season, but he isn't thanks to Perez's collapses after two of Kluber's starts—with the second one coming on Monday night.
Perez also had a debacle of a relief stint earlier in the season (.2 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 4 ER) following another terrific start by Kluber. Perez blew a 5-2 Indians lead to the Red Sox that led to a 6-5 Boston win.
Kluber's injury could open the door for the Indians' new top prospect, Danny Salazar, who was terrific in his first start against the Blue Jays (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) and got the win against a potent Toronto lineup.
Despite the two home runs surrendered to Jackson and Cabrera against the Tigers on Wednesday, Salazar (7.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 10 K) was very good and showed scintillating stuff and good stamina. His fastball started out in the high 90s in the first inning and stayed there until he left the game with only a slight drop in his velocity on the mound.
How good was Salazar?
He struck out the best hitter on the planet in Cabrera three times. According to Rick Manning on Sports Time Ohio's broadcast of Thursday night's game, Cabrera had been joking around with the Indians' bench during Wednesday's game in imploring the Indians to take Salazar out so that the Tigers could get more hits.
Indians manager Terry Francona bubbled over Salazar's start to Jordan Sebastian of MLB.com:
Besides a couple mistakes, I thought he was tremendous. He had poise, competitiveness. I wish I could sit here on a win, but it doesn't change the fact of how he pitched or how we feel about him. That was pretty awesome.
Salazar just has "The Look". It's the same look that Ubaldo Jimenez lacks. Salazar looks like he is a battler and is pissed when he makes a mistake. He also appears very confident. You don't see that in Ubaldo. Salazar's competitiveness, along with his 98 mph fastball, makes him legit.
If Trevor Bauer can figure things out in the minors, the trio of Kluber, Salazar and Bauer could provide the Indians with a talented, young group of starting pitchers for years to come.
Indians Pitchers Need to Make Better Pitches Ahead in the Count
I counted five times in the four games that Indians pitchers were ahead in the count 1-2 and still allowed base hits.
Even more striking was that Tribe hurlers were ahead in the count 0-2 and allowed hits eight other times, with three of these coming in big spots.
Perez gave up a big RBI single to Victor Martinez to close the gap to 2-1 in the ninth inning of Game 1. In Game 3, Bryan Shaw gave up a double to Jackson on an 0-2 count to start the winning rally in the 14th inning.
The frustrating part of that was that the Indians' hurler made two great pitches to start off the at-bat, but made his 0-2 pitch too hittable. Fielder took advantage of the hanging breaking ball that was too close to the plate.
Ahead in the count against a good-hitting team, a pitcher needs to make his next pitch down in the dirt, up in the zone or tantalizingly close to make hitters chase it.
Indians hurlers need to improve in this area.
The Indians Could Learn a Thing or Two from the Tigers' Plate Approach
Throughout this series, Tigers hitters took pitches to the opposite field. In fact, Martinez has made a career of that and hits the ball where it is pitched.
Fielder laced a decisive double the opposite way on an outside breaking ball when down in the count 0-2, and Cabrera punishes the ball to any field.
Tribe hitters have the ability to hit the ball where it is pitched, most notably Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher, but it seems as if Indians' hitters try to do too much with pitches.
Indians' batters are third in the AL and sixth in MLB in team strikeouts. Their mark of 934 Ks is well above the team averages of 846 and 853 in the AL and the majors, respectively.
The Tigers, on the other hand, are 13th in the AL and tied for 25th in MLB with 785 strikeouts. The Tigers do serious damage with their bats while striking out considerably less than the Indians.
If Bruce Rondon Can Improve His Command, Look Out
Bruce Rondon looked filthy in his two innings of work during the late innings of Game 3, striking out three and leaving Indians hitters muttering to themselves.
The burly Tigers reliever struck out three, and every one of his fastballs reached 100 mph with several hitting 103.
If Rondon (17 GP, 18 IP, 4.28 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5 BB, 18 K) can really figure out his command, then he will be virtually unhittable and you might as well give the World Series to the Tigers because they already have two of the best starters in Scherzer and Verlander atop a very deep starting rotation along with the best hitter in MLB in Cabrera in a very dangerous offense.
Rondon could be the solution to shoring up the Tigers' biggest glaring weakness: the lack of a solid, dominant closer.
Look Out Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Perez, Here Comes Ryan Raburn
Is there anything Ryan Raburn can't do?
Clutch hits, solid bench work and now a shutdown reliever.
He was stellar in his inning of work against Detroit, setting down the Tigers' side in order and even fanning Matt Tuiasosopo.
Can you hear Tuiasosopo's teammates bagging on him?
"Hey Matt, remember when you struck out against Raburn?"
MLB.com lists Raburn's pitch repertoire as consisting of a changeup, a cutter and a nasty 89 mph four-seam fastball.
His changeup against Detroit was probably more of a slow fastball, his cutter a fastball that just happened to catch the wind and his fastball was not that fast.
Mike Aviles said of Ryan to Mark Emery of MLB.com, "It was good to see Ryan give us a little bit of a laugh."
The Indians needed a laugh after their Game 4 beatdown.
Thanks for reading! I welcome any comments you may have. What were your thoughts on the series?
Note: Pitch counts, velocities of pitches and play by play of series games can be found at this main link.