James Karinchak and the Guardians bullpen pitch five scoreless innings
A few hours before the first pitch, the Tigers fired general manager Al Avila to end his seven-year tenure without a postseason appearance.
"Today is another reminder that we haven't succeeded," said manager AJ Hinch, whose team is 43-69. "The record reflects where we're at."
Cleveland (58-52) started the day tied with Minnesota for first place in the AL Central.
"It makes waking up every day such a pleasure," said James Karinchak, who had three strikeouts and stranded three runners in the eighth inning. "Ultimately, this is what you want to do at the beginning of the season. You want to be playing for something."
The last-place Tigers, meanwhile, are 16 games back and relegated to playing for pride while the franchise searches for a new general manager.
"It's the unfortunate reality for any of us," Detroit catcher Eric Haase said. "Guys can get sent up, sent down, shipped out."
Aaron Civale started for Cleveland after being on the 15-day injured list with wrist inflammation and retired the first nine batters. Civale gave up two runs and three hits while striking out four over four innings.
Karinchak and five other relievers — including Bryan Shaw (5-2) — combined for five innings of scoreless relief. Emmanuel Clase gave up one hit in the ninth, earning his 26th save.
Karinchak struck out Javier Baez with two on in the eighth inning. With the bases loaded, Karinchak struck out Haase and Kerry Carpenter — in his major league debut — to trigger an demonstrative, one-man celebration as the reliever walked toward the dugout.
"That was a tightrope, but he got out it," manager Terry Francona said. "A lot of bending, but no break."
Kwan scored in the first inning on Jose Ramirez's single. Will Benson had an RBI single — his first major league hit — and Myles Straw's groundout gave the Guardians a 3-0 lead in the second.
Drew Hutchison (1-6) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk over five innings.
The offensively challenged Tigers scored their only two runs in the fifth on Harold Castro's single and Haase's double.
"We had our chances at the end, but we just didn't come through," Haase said.
Peyton Battenfield will be promoted from Triple-A Columubs as Karinchak's replacement in Toronto and the right-hander may make his major league debut against the Blue Jays.
"It's definitely a tough blow," said Karinchak, who has not given up a run over his last 13 2/3 innings and 12 appearances.
Karinchak will not join his teammates after Thursday's game for the trip across the border because he has not complied with the Canadian government's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
"It's my decision," he said. "Some guys want to get vaccinated, some guys don't want to get vaccinatted. I'm blessed to have that decision."
Will Karinchak get vaccinated if Cleveland ends up facing Toronto in the playoffs?
"We'll see when we get there," he said.
Tigers: RHP Beau Brieske (right forearm soreness) was scheduled to start the series finale on Thursday and after a setback, he was transferred him to the 60-day injured list. "We decided to be very conservative and be smart with Beau," Hinch said. ... OF Austin Meadows started an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday.
Guardians: RHP Jake Jewell was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Civale on the roster.
Tigers: The Tigers optioned OF Daz Cameron to Triple-A Toledo.
Cleveland RHP Garrett Hill (2-3, 5.12) and Detroit RHP Zach Plesac (2-10, 4.49) scheduled to start the series finale Thursday afternoon.