Indians hope to clinch division on Saturday with win over Tigers

CLEVELAND — With a chance to clinch a third consecutive American League Central title, the Cleveland Indians will host the Detroit Tigers in the second game of a three-game series on Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field.

The Indians’ magic number for clinching the division is one. Even if the Indians lose Saturday, they would clinch the title if Minnesota loses to Kansas City.

With a 15-game lead over the second-place Twins, the Indians will obviously clinch the division at some point. The only question is when. This will be the fourth time the Indians have made it to the postseason in the six seasons since Terry Francona became manager in 2013.

“We take a lot of pride in that,” Francona said. “It’s hard to do. Not everything goes your way, but we’ve found a way to be good enough, and done it in a good way.”

Whenever the Indians clinch the division, Francona said it’s a celebration worth having, no matter how big the margin.

“I want our guys to enjoy it because it’s really hard,” he said. “But then you turn the page and it’s ‘What’s next?'”

The Indians will likely play the Houston Astros in the Division Series, but what’s next is Saturday’s home game against the Tigers in which Cleveland right-hander Mike Clevinger will face Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer.

Clevinger (11-8, 3.16 ERA) will be making his 30th start of the season. His last start was a 6-2 loss to Toronto on Sunday in which he pitched six innings, allowing three runs and four hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks. That is Clevinger’s only loss in his last eight starts, during which he has a 4-1 record and a 2.40 ERA.

Clevinger’s last start against the Tigers was a 2-1 loss on July 28, when he pitched five innings, giving up just two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. In two starts against Detroit this year, Clevinger is 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA. He has made eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Tigers and is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA.

Fulmer (3-11, 4.56) has had a tough year. He hasn’t won a game since June 14. In nine starts since then, he is 0-6 with a 5.23 ERA.

Fulmer’s last start against Cleveland came June 8. He got no decision in a 4-1 Tigers loss. In that game, Fulmer pitched seven innings, allowing one run and five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.

In two starts against the Indians this year, Fulmer is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA. In seven career starts against Cleveland, he is 2-3 with a 6.11 ERA. In five career starts at Progressive Field, Fulmer is 2-3 with a 7.20 ERA.

The Tigers won the first game of the series Friday night, snapping their four-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory that also halted their 10-game losing streak at Progressive Field.

Two of Cleveland’s six hits were by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who in the sixth inning, in his first game at Progressive Field as a member of the Indians, belted his first home run in a Cleveland uniform. The Indians acquired Donaldson in a trade with Toronto on Aug. 31.

Donaldson will not play in Saturday’s game as the Indians are easing him back into the lineup after he missed 3 1/2 months earlier this season with a strained calf.