Indians secure AL Central crown

Francisco Lindor
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The Indians wrapped up the AL Central division with a 15-0 win over the Tigers on Saturday, marking their third consecutive division title since 2016. Mike Clevinger earned his 12th win of the season, turning in six innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball as Cleveland’s offense worked their way to double digits on the scoreboard.

At the plate, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley kicked off an explosive first inning with back-to-back home runs. The two homers were enough to retire Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who made a hasty exit from the mound after sustaining a bout of right knee inflammation. His replacement, lefty reliever Matt Hall, fared little better: by the end of the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz, and Jason Kipnis had all scored on a combination of fielding errors and productive outs, while Roberto Perez topped the team’s six-run spread with an RBI single.

The Indians didn’t stop there. They overwhelmed the Tigers’ bullpen again in the second inning, returning with another five runs on Jose Ramirez’s RBI double, a pair of RBI hits from Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, and Perez’s sac fly to gain an 11-0 advantage over Detroit.

All told, the Tigers cycled through seven pitchers in an attempt to stymie the Indians’ efforts. They didn’t catch a break until the fifth inning, by which point the Indians had already amassed 15 runs following Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer and a run-scoring triple from Ramirez and single from Encarnacion. (Encarnacion, it should be said, made it through just four innings before departing with a right ankle sprain.) It was the largest run deficit the Tigers had seen all year, and the most runs they’d allowed since they weathered a 15-8 loss to the Twins in August.

Though the Indians secured the AL Central title in decisive fashion this weekend, each of the other five divisions have yet to see a clear winner emerge. The Red Sox currently lead the AL East with a league-best 101-47 record, while the Astros hold a narrow 2.5-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West, the Braves look like the favorites to wrap up the NL East, the Cubs continue to outpace the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Dodgers and Rockies remain tied in the NL West.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.