The AL Central race that seemed on its way to becoming a joke six weeks ago now looks like it might become one of the best races in baseball down the stretch.The Indians’ 8-0 win over the Tigers on Tuesday, combined with the Twins’ 3-2 loss to the Mets, moves the Indians within five games of Minnesota in the AL Central. That’s the smallest deficit the Indians have faced since they were 4 1/2 games back on May 19. And it’s a far cry from the 11 1/2-game lead the Twins held over Cleveland on June 2. MLB trade rumors: Royals focused on moving Billy Hamilton, Ian Kennedy, other veterans MLB trade rumors: Phillies have been ‘in contact with every team that has pitching available’ Oscar Mercado’s two-run homer sparked a five-run second inning that put the Indians in front for good, and Francisco Lindor also had two RBIs.Oscar Mercado homers (7) on a fly ball to right off Ryan CarpenterExit Velocity 92 MPHDistance 330 FTLaunch Angle 35.5#MotorOn vs #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/hBxLiThcso— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) July 16, 2019Yes, there’s a long way to go, and no one even knows what will happen heading into the trade deadline, as the Indians are said to be shopping pitcher Trevor Bauer. But Cleveland’s outlook is certainly much rosier than it was just six weeks ago.Studs of the nightRoyals right hander Glenn Sparkman pitched one of the rarest of events in MLB today — a nine-inning, complete-game shutout. Sparkman gave up five hits and walked one while striking out eight in an 11-0 win over the White Sox.Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper homered and had three runs scored and three RBIs in a 12-7 win against the Padres.Christian Yelich hit a grand slam and scored three runs in a 13-1 victory over the Braves.Duds of the NightPadres starter Logan Allen got roughed up for seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in the loss to the Marlins.Rays DH Tommy Pham and Diamondbacks catcher Alex Avila both struck out in all four at-bats Tuesday. HighlightsBryce Harper walks it off for the Phillies in a crazy 9-8 win over the Dodgers. The Indians were 29-30 at the time, but have gone 24-10 since, winning three straight and nine of their last 11. Both the bats and arms have stepped up: Cleveland led the majors in team OPS for the month of July entering play Tuesday, and the pitching staff has yielded only 32 runs in the past 11 games.Both components showed up in the win over the Tigers. Right-hander Zach Plesac, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Columbus, pitched three scoreless innings to start things off and Tyler Clippard, Nick Goody and Tyler Olson completed the shutout. Related News Willson Contreras injury update: Cubs catcher placed on IL as ‘precautionary’ move WALK-OFF!!! @bryceharper3 delivers and the @Phillies pull off a thrilling comeback win!#MLBNShowcase | #RingTheBell pic.twitter.com/HKLkuDeLuN— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) July 17, 2019Brett Gardner makes this difficult home run robbery look almost routine.Gard that wall. pic.twitter.com/CG99vw8xCB— MLB (@MLB) July 17, 2019Is there anything more anticlimactic than an inside-the-park home run where the runner is initially called out? But the Royals’ Whit Merrifield clearly is safe on the slide.🚨 INSIDE-THE-PARK HOME RUN 🚨 pic.twitter.com/85aM5INoGv— MLB (@MLB) July 17, 2019What’s NextBraves (58-38) at Brewers (49-47), 2:10 p.m. ET — The Braves are opening up some daylight between the rest of the pack in the NL East, while the Brewers are in a dogfight in the NL Central. After a rocky start in his first two outings with the Braves, Dallas Keuchel has gone 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in his last three games. Right hander Chase Anderson (4-2, 4.27 ERA) will go for the Brewers.