CLEVELAND -- The Tigers remember when the tables were turned here. They won nine of 10 games at Progressive Field in 2013, a difference that essentially decided the division race that year. They had a winning record here as recently as three years ago, when they won six of nine.
As reliever Alex Wilson said earlier this weekend, the teams have flipped.
"It's frustrating," Wilson said, "because we played well at home against these guys. But if we're ever going to get over the hump in this division, we're going to have to find a way to beat these guys consistently. Until we can rectify that, we're going to have a hard time winning this division."
As the Tigers packed up a quiet clubhouse Sunday afternoon, preparing to head home after a 12-2 loss to the Indians finished off a three-game series sweep at Progressive Field, the frustration didn't need to be spoken. Detroit has defied expectations in a rebuilding year by hanging around .500, and hanging close to the Indians during stretches when the Tigers have played other clubs. This weekend was the second series sweep they've suffered here this year, and with a 26-3 combined margin in three games, this one wasn't close.
"We talked about this before: You play hot teams and you play teams that are struggling, and hopefully you run into the ones that are struggling more than the hot teams," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And right now, these last few ballgames, those guys are swinging good."
The Tigers have lost 10 in a row at Progressive Field since Michael Fulmer beat the Indians last July 9. In those 10 losses, the Tigers have led for a total of half an inning, and only because they scored in the top of the first inning last Sept. 13 before the Indians scored three times in the bottom of the frame.
Closer Shane Greene hasn't pitched in Cleveland since that win last July, when he was Detroit's setup man. Between Detroit's struggles this weekend and two losses in Cincinnati, Greene hasn't pitched in a game since last Saturday in Chicago.
After five consecutive losses, the Tigers were ready to get out of Ohio on Sunday. They're 0-9 in the Buckeye State, and 36-33 elsewhere.
Asked if the Tigers have a mental factor, a not-again factor, going into Cleveland, catcher James McCann paused.
"I'd like not to think so," he said. "But I mean, it's no secret the success they've had against us here. But really, go back to the series in April, and I think with the exception of the last game, the first three games could've gone either way. This weekend, they took it to us and we didn't respond."
Like Justin Verlander the previous couple years, and Fulmer in April, there was at least a sense that the Indians had found an edge on the starting pitcher. Matthew Boyd allowed four hits with his slider in the first few innings, but more glaringly, yielded three stolen bases in a three-run second frame. He threw to first base three times on Rajai Davis, who stole second base on the next pitch.
"I hung Mac out to dry today," Boyd said. "They shouldn't have run like they did on me. It's an aspect you have to be aware of."
Boyd (4-6) took two losses in Ohio this week. Unlike in Cincinnati, where Joey Votto's grand slam just over the short right-field wall sunk him, Boyd struggled from the outset in Cleveland, exiting with six runs over three-plus innings after Francisco Lindor's projected 386-foot drive, per Statcast™, to right field for his third homer in as many games this series.
The Tigers, held to one run over the first two games of this series, turned a quartet of fourth-inning hits into two runs on RBI singles from Niko Goodrum and McCann. They did little else against Indians rookie starter Adam Plutko (4-1), who went six innings for the victory.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Slide-step sinks Boyd: Boyd's struggles holding baserunners hurt him on Lindor's homer after Davis' leadoff single in the fourth. He put Lindor in an 0-2 count put left a 1-2 fastball over the plate, which Lindor drilled.
"We didn't really know what they had," McCann said. "They obviously had something, and we said, 'All right, we'll just go slide-step.' And I think slide-step, [Boyd's] arm didn't catch up all the way, trying to get in on [Lindor] and we left it out over the plate."
The Tigers are 3-10 against the Indians this season. They're 15-11 against the rest of the American League Central.
HE SAID IT
"You always have to respect the guy wearing the other jersey. He's a big league player, too. At the same time, sometimes you have to look in the mirror and you have to step up. Sometimes it's not always tip your cap. Sometimes it's gotta be: We have to find a way to do a better job." -- McCann, on the Tigers' struggles in Cleveland
After Jose Iglesias and Leonys Martin take part in pregame U.S. citizenship ceremonies at Comerica Park on Monday, they'll take their swings against former Tiger Edwin Jackson as Detroit opens a four-game series against the A's with a 3:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 4.95 ERA) will start for the Tigers.