CLEVELAND -- Armed with foam baseballs, the Cleveland Indians gathered after the game in front of the dugout and tossed the souvenirs to their fans. The gifts were a way of saying goodbye -- much sooner than anyone thought they would.
Cliff Lee finished strong with his first nine-inning complete game and the Indians capped an unfulfilling season with a 6-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday, completing a four-game sweep of the Devil Rays.
Lee (14-11) allowed three runs and seven hits and went nine innings for the first time in his career. He was credited with a complete game on July 18, 2005, a 6-2 win over Kansas City that was stopped after five innings by rain.
The lefty went 4-1 in six starts since Sept. 2.
"I could pitch another month or two if they'd let me," he said. "It lets me know that I'm training myself to pitch in the postseason."
Maybe next year.
While Lee failed to match his 18-5 record of 2005, the Indians didn't improve their win total from last season either. Cleveland wasn't expecting this October to end after just one game.
The Indians opened the year brimming with confidence after winning 93 times a year ago and coming in second to the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. However, following a 6-1 start, early season pitching problems doomed them and Cleveland finished fourth behind Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit.
"We were in the best division in baseball," manager Eric Wedge said. "I don't know too many people at the start of the year who thought there would be two teams in the playoffs and it wouldn't be us and Chicago."
But unlike last season, when they dropped two of three to the Devil Rays during a 1-6, final-week collapse, the Indians swept four from Tampa for the first time, went 8-1 down the stretch and ended up 78-84 -- their third-worst record since 1995.
"We had a couple of areas on the club that weren't up to par," Wedge said, "and we had a couple of individuals who weren't up to par."
The Devil Rays were bad even by their atrocious standards.
Their 3-36 record in road games since July 1 is the worst over that span in major league history. Tampa Bay, which went 22-51 after the All-Star break, is also the first team to lose 100 games and have a winning record at home.
"It's unbelievable," first-year manager Joe Maddon said. "On the road, that record, that's so absurd. We're two different teams. We prepare the same, we just don't play the same."
Still, Maddon came away encouraged.
"I really saw some good things this year, the record was tough to swallow but so many people made progress," he said. "We've got to treat this like these guys just came down from Mars and we've got to explain it to them. It's not an insult to their intelligence. It's just the way it is."
Leading 3-1, the Indians caught a lucky break in the third when Hollins lost a catchable fly to deep center in the sun.
Jason Michaels led off with a towering shot that Hollins settled under but couldn't locate while shielding his eyes with his glove. The ball dropped in, and Michaels hustled to third with a generous triple.
Blake followed by lifting a fly to left-center that seemed to fool Hollins, who got a bad jump and then had to fight the sun again before making the catch below his waist. Michaels tagged and scored to make it 4-1.
A two-out rally that Casey Blake started with a double helped the Indians open a 3-0 lead in their first at-bat. Blake scored when Garko dropped a single into right for his 45th RBI in 50 games.
Choo followed with a single and Peralta brought both runners home with a double into the right-field corner.
Hollins opened the game by hitting Lee's third pitch over the wall in left field for his 15th homer.
Norton's shot to left in the eighth was his career-high 17th.
- The Indians drew 1,997,928 fans to Jacobs Field, about 15,000 less than a year ago.
- OF Grady Sizemore finished as the AL leader in runs (134) and extra-base hits (92). He also joined Chuck Klein (1932) as the only players in history with 50 doubles, 10 triples, 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season.
- Tampa Bay is 579-876 (.398) in its nine-year history, easily the worst overall record of any of the 14 expansion teams. This was the D-Rays' third 100-loss season in the past six.
- Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford sat out his second straight game. He finished batting .305 and led the AL with 16 triples.
- The Indians matched a season-high with six doubles.