CLEVELAND — Max Scherzer and the Tigers kept elbowing forward as the boys of history Thursday night at Progressive Field.
And the Indians? They may be just plain history.
The Tigers swamped Cleveland 10-3 to put an exclamation point on a stunning and resounding four-game sweep of their division rivals.
Not since 1940 have the Tigers and Indians fought until the end for first place — and this year looks no different. Not after Detroit ripped the hearts out of fans here with two comeback victories earlier in the week, then stomped on them Thursday to push seven games ahead of the Indians in the AL Central.
The Tigers moved into franchise-record territory with their 12th straight victory while Scherzer barged into uncharted grounds with another win — his 17-1 record surpassing the 16-2 starts of Bobo Newsom in 1940 and Denny McLain in 1968 as the best in 120 years of major-league baseball in Detroit.
"Sometimes, you just have a fairytale series," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
And how much of a nightmare was it for Cleveland? Its best pitcher was Ryan Raburn.
In fact, the loudest the crowd of 25,131 got was for the outfielder’s sideshow relief appearance. With starter Zach McAllister chased in the third inning and the Indians’ bullpen depleted, manager Terry Francona turned to Raburn in the ninth for his first professional pitching appearance.
A series that began with so much promise for the Tribe ended with the faithful on their feet as Raburn tossed a perfect inning. Raburn, who became the first Cleveland position player to pitch since Andy Marte was tossed to the Yankees in 2010, drew a pair of groundouts and pumped a 89-mph fastball past pinch-hitter Matt Tuiasosopo.
"Just making him earn that two-year extension," Leyland cracked of the former Tiger and Mud Hen, who on Wednesday signed a two-year, $4.85 million extension.
For the Indians on this night, it was as good as it gets. The Tigers, who moved within two games of the franchise-mark for consecutive wins set by the pennant-winning 1909 and 1934 teams, beat Cleveland for the 16th time in the rivals’ last 20 meetings. It was Detroit’s first four-game sweep in Cleveland since 1988.
Game. Series. Division?
While the Tigers may have put a bow on a third straight division title, Leyland scoffed at the notion.
"I know better than that," he said. "I’m no fool. There’s a lot of baseball left. I can’t control what someone else thinks. I know what I know, and I know they’re not going away. ... We came in and had two teriffic ballgames. We could have lost both of them. We won both. It’s just one of those freak series. If someone told me you would be 9-1 in Cleveland this season, I’d say you’re nuts."
Scherzer said, "We came out here and played as good of a four-game series as we’ve played all year. When we play well, we can do great things."
Thursday was one of those days.
The Tigers rocked a wild McAllister in the third inning. The Tigers scored first on a bases-loaded walk to Miguel Cabrera, then piled on as Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez followed with run-scoring doubles.
A batter later, McAllister (4-7) was done. In his worst start of the year, he allowed six runs on four hits over 2 1/3 innings.
Scherzer, meanwhile, continued on as usual. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and held the Tribe to four hits over seven innings of one-run ball.
"He’s always good," Leyland said. "I don’t know how to compare his outings."
The only downside for the Tigers came when catcher Alex Avila left the game in the fifth inning with concussion-like symptoms after taking a foul ball off his mask. Avila told trainers he felt lightheaded and was sent to an area hospital for observation. Leyland had no update.