The American League Central has turned into a three-horse race, and the Cleveland Indians will try to creep closer to the top when they resume a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Travis Hafner's unlikely triple led to the game-winning run in the seventh inning as the Indians squeezed past the Tigers, 3-2, in the opener of this series between the division foes on Tuesday.
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera momentarily quieted the Progressive Field crowd by hitting a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh, but Hafner, with the benefit of a generous bounce off the left-field wall, legged out a one-out triple in the bottom half.
A well-executed squeeze bunt by Aaron Cunningham then allowed pinch-runner Lou Marson to slide in safely ahead of Doug Fister's low throw for the go-ahead run.
"It was a great call by [Indians manager Manny Acta]," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland of the squeeze play. "That was the run that beat us, so it was a good call by him."
Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez each threw an inning of relief to close out the tight win.
Cabrera's homer off Joe Smith (6-2) spoiled a potential winning decision for Ubaldo Jimenez, who scattered seven hits and two walks over six scoreless innings.
Nonetheless, the Indians won for the second straight night on the heels of a four-game slide and snapped the AL Central-leading Tigers' five-game winning streak. Detroit, currently tied with the Chicago White Sox atop the division and three games ahead of the Tribe, went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
"In order for you to beat [the Tigers] you need to keep the bottom of their order off the bases and the top of their order off the bases," Acta said. "It's a tough task."
The Indians are now a gaudy 6-1 against the Tigers this season.
The Tigers hope to bounce back behind Max Scherzer, who is 4-4 with a shaky 5.44 ERA in nine career starts versus the Tribe.
Cleveland counters with veteran Derek Lowe, who has always excelled both as a starter and reliever against the Tigers. The right-hander has compiled a 7-3 mark with a solid 2.38 ERA and nine saves in 30 appearances (11 starts) versus Detroit.
The Sports Network