Tigers relentless in dominance of Indians

DETROIT — The rut gets deeper every day.

And the Indians are way down there in this rut, which they’ve pretty much dug by themselves.

Manager Terry Francona admitted as much, saying his team had dug itself a hole. He added the only answer was to dig their way out. Which of course means digging to China or something … but let’s accept the point for what it is, and what is meant.

The Indians are stumbling, and if they want their games to remain meaningful, they need to stop stumbling, or digging, or whatever metaphor you choose. The players know it, the fans know it and the manager knows it.

Saturday brought more weariness as the Indians lost their fifth in a row on this “key” stretch of games that started in Atlanta and continued in Detroit. While the Braves frustrated the Indians with some very good pitching that trumped the Indians good pitching, the Tigers continue to treat the Indians like they’re little kids.

Or, as Michael Bourn said Friday, like the Indians are the Tigers “child.”

It’s tough to watch, tough to swallow and tough to believe that the Tigers own the Indians this way, but the results show they certainly do this season.

Detroit is now 15-3 against the Indians, having won seven in a row and 13-of-14.

It’s the most wins by Detroit over Cleveland since 1960, with a game Sunday awaiting.

“I don’t sit around and think about that,” Francona said. “It’s not productive. I just try to think how we’re going to beat them tomorrow, now.”

To think the Indians actually won two-of-three from Detroit the first time the teams played. It does seem long ago.

Saturday, there was more frustration as the Indians fought back from a 6-2 deficit — created by Omar Infante’s two home runs and five RBI, with one home run bouncing off the glove of Michael Brantley and over the fence — to cut the margin to 6-5.

Two of those runs scored on a Carlos Santana inside the park home run when Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson bounced off the wall as he attempted to catch Santana’s blast, and didn’t move after apparently hurting his shoulder.

Jackson finished the inning, then drove a first-pitch triple into the gap in the bottom of the eighth to score two and increase Detroit’s lead — which eventually became five runs.

“They just kept coming at us,” Francona said. “We fought, which was really good to see. But they kept coming. We just couldn’t stop them.”

Detroit does that to people. It has excellent starting pitching and an excellent lineup, and with Miguel Cabrera out the Tigers got two home runs from Infante and some excellent play from shortstop Jose Iglesias, who bunted a ball over his head to drive in a run from third.

If a person were watching from another planet he or she would find it interesting, and perhaps hard to understand. The Tigers hit a home run off the Indians glove, the Tigers guy crashes into the wall and looks like he’s out for the season, then the same guy triples on the first pitch his next at-bat.

The Indians enter September with division hopes virtually extinguished. Detroit will not come back to Cleveland. They are a better team.

Wild card hopes remain, but the Indians sure need to play better than they did in August, when they went 12-16 and hit .229 and scored 3.3 runs per game — the latter two numbers the worst in the American League. A team-wide hitting slump is the reason the Indians were below .500 when they had a team ERA of 3.89.

The only good thing is it wasn’t as bad as a year ago. Of course, the August of 2012 was catastrophic. This one was merely tough that turned worse as each day went on.

The Indians hopes on Sunday rest with Danny Salazar.

“Fight our ass off,” Francona said. “Find a way to win. That’s the only way we know.”

He added that getting deflated “isn’t part of the program.”

“We need to figure a way to beat them,” Francona said.

Which of course is correct.

At this point, though, the Tigers have their hands firmly on the Indians forehead, and they’re smirking as the Indians continually swing and miss.