CLEVELAND -- As far as the Indians' season is concerned, "disaster" might not be a forceful enough word to use in labeling what happened during this week's series against Detroit.
After dropping each of the first three games, the Indians were thoroughly pushed around in the finale. Tribe starter Zach McAllister was tagged for six runs in fewer than three innings, and his teammates in the lineup scored just twice against Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, as the Indians were beaten, 10-3, in the final game of a demoralizing sweep at Progressive Field.
"Tonight was a tough night. It was actually a tough series," said Tribe manager Terry Francona, whose players had a meeting after the game. "But I was kind of proud of our guys. They kept playing. Scherzer is on the mound, he's one of the best in the game, and we're down a bunch. It's frustrating, it's a hard way to play, but they kept playing."
The series was billed as the most crucial set on Cleveland's schedule. It began with the Tigers holding a three-game lead in the American League Central. By the time it was over, that margin had been stretched to seven.
With an opportunity Thursday to at least avert the four-game home sweep, the Indians (62-53) played as if that possibility were not even an option. Considering the Tigers' dominance of Cleveland all season long, maybe it never was.
"It was definitely tough. But the season is not over," infielder Mike Aviles said. "There's nothing we can really do about the last four games.
"Right now, it's a little bit bad. But the good is always around the corner."
The Indians have dropped 13 of 16 contests with Detroit -- which has won 12 straight -- this season. The Tigers' four-game sweep in Cleveland this week was their first since June 9-12, 1988. For the 13th time since 1916, Detroit has racked up at least 13 wins in a season against the Tribe, and there's still three more meetings to go.
The ineffective effort in the finale began with McAllister, who labored though his shortest outing of the season. Though the first two innings were uneventful, Detroit made plenty of noise in the third. McAllister issued three walks and allowed two doubles and a single in the frame, during which the Tigers (68-45) scored six runs.
"I just got out of sync," McAllister said. "I felt good, felt like the ball was coming out the way I wanted it to. I just wasn't able to command it. That killed me today.
"I wasn't able to make the adjustment that I needed to to get back into it and get outs when I needed to."
McAllister (4-7, 3.90 ERA) gave up four hits and five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. He left after issuing four walks and three strikeouts.
Reliever Preston Guilmet, called up from Triple-A Columbus before the game, got the last two outs of the third and conceded another pair of runs to Detroit in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
The Tribe first scored in the fourth inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera doubled in Michael Bourn from first base. Cabrera, who had been hitless in his last 10 at-bats, also doubled in Jason Kipnis in the sixth.
Cleveland added another run in the bottom of the ninth. In the top of it, the club got a boost from utility man Ryan Raburn, who entered the game as a relief pitcher. Raburn, who pitched in high school and college, tossed a perfect inning and even struck out Matt Tuiasosopo with an 89-mph fastball.
"The bright spot was Ryan getting in and pitching well, and getting a strikeout there," Aviles said. "When you get a situation like that, sometimes you've just got to turn the page and in that situation, we pretty much got beat in every facet of the game. It was good to see Ryan give us a little laugh."
The Indians did little else to increase their odds of winning. When a defense that committed two errors was combined with the lackluster pitching and hitting, Cleveland didn't have a chance.
Scherzer (17-1, 2.84 ERA) bowed out after seven innings, during which he held the Indians to four hits and two runs. With just one walk and five strikeouts, the Major League wins leader paved the way for Detroit's sweep-clinching win.
"It's definitely tough any time you're going to face him," Aviles said. "If you give him a little lead, he's definitely going to bear down a little bit and be able to pound the strike zone. He was the same old Scherzer. He's beaten us three or four times this year already. He's definitely a good pitcher."
In four starts against the Indians, Scherzer is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA across 30 innings. He has 26 strikeouts and five walks to go along with a 0.77 WHIP.
The start of this crucial affair wasn't nearly as bleak as its finish. In Monday's opener, the Indians entered the ninth inning with a two-run lead, but closer Chris Perez gave up four runs -- three via a crushing home run by Alex Avila -- and the Tribe lost a heartbreaker.
A day later, ace Justin Masterson was slapped around for five runs, and on Wednesday the Tigers came back to win a game in 14 innings, with slugger Miguel Cabrera's devastating go-ahead homer in the eighth inning fueling the Detroit rally.
After all that, the Tigers ran away with Thursday's game easily.
"We came in and had two terrific ballgames, two that we could've lost, and we happened to win both of them," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They're not going to go away. They're too good. Like I said, sometimes you just have one of those fairytale series. Sometimes it's for you and sometimes it's against you. This one happened to go for us and against them and I've seen both sides of it. It's just one of those series that you really can't explain."
If the Indians are to have any redemption against their nemesis, the series at Comerica Park starting Aug. 30 represents their last chance. Meanwhile, Cleveland will look to rebound with three games against the Angels at Progressive Field this weekend.
"We'll be fine," Francona said. "I believe that, or I wouldn't say it. We'll show up tomorrow. There's no guarantee we're going to win, but we'll show up tomorrow and I have a feeling that we'll hang in there. We'll figure out a way."
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.