DETROIT -- It only made sense that the finale of this three-game series between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians would end in dramatic fashion.
Sunday's matchup featured warnings, an ejection, blown calls, and enough offense to last either team through an entire weekend.
Yet it was defense that decided this one when Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson unleashed a fireball to home plate that cut down Kosuke Fukudome, who was attempting to score the tying run following Matt LaPorta's flyball.
Comerica Park erupted when Fukudome slid into Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who had home plate blocked while waiting for Jackson's laser beam, and the Detroit clubhouse was still in a frenzy after the wild 8-7 victory over the Indians and the series sweep that puts the Tigers 4 1/2 games in front of Cleveland in the American League Central Division standings.
"It was huge having Jackson come up with that assist the way he did," said Tigers left-hander Phil Coke (2-8), who picked up the win in relief. "For him to get the last out like that, it was awesome."
Indians manager Manny Acta defended the decision to send Fukudome.
"No guts, no glory," Acta said. "He had to go, but he made a great throw."
Neither starter lasted past the fourth inning after the Tigers batted around and scored seven runs in the third, and then the Indians batted around and scored five runs in the fourth.
"It was a weird game, but it was a nice win for us," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "You have to give them a lot of credit for not giving in, and you have to put a little blame on us for not closing it out after we got the seven-run lead."
After a scoreless first two innings, the fireworks began in the third when Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera stared at a long foul ball down the right field line and Tigers starter Rick Porcello threw behind him on the next pitch.
Cabrera took exception and began exchanging words with Porcello before home plate umpire Paul Schrieber stepped in front of Cabrera. Umpires Joe West, Tim McClelland, and Schrieber convened after tensions calmed down, and warnings were issued to both benches.
"I don't think that was handled very well," Acta said. "I think everyone in the stadium knew he threw at him, and if you know he threw at him, you throw him out. Because of the warning, now you can't pitch inside."
Porcello didn't last much longer after that.
After the Tigers took a 7-0 lead in the third thanks in part to Delmon Young's three-run blast to left and Victor Martinez's two-run shot that hooked around the right-field foul pole, the Indians got their revenge.
Carlos Santana got the rally started with one out when he grooved an 88-mph fastball from Porcello 388 feet over the wall in right.
The Indians followed with four straight base hits with two outs, including Lou Marson's RBI single to right and Michael Brantley's two-run double off the wall in right-center field that chased Porcello, who allowed five runs on seven hits in 3⅔ innings.
Left-hander Duane Below came on in relief and stunted the surge, but not before hurling a wild pitch that allowed Brantley to score from third.
"Rick has to nail that down. He has to give us at least six innings in that game," said Leyland, who was ejected in the sixth while arguing what replays showed was a blown call by umpire Alan Porter at third base when Wilson Betemit was called out trying to advance on Ramon Santiago's groundball to short.
Young tallied his fourth RBI of the contest in the fourth to put Detroit ahead 8-5 after Jackson stole second -- although replays showed he was out -- and came around to score on Young's grounder up the middle. That chased Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1), who surrendered eight runs on nine hits in 3⅓ innings.
Cleveland slowly chipped away at the lead, however, bringing a run across in the fifth on Jack Hannahan's RBI groundout and another in the sixth on Travis Hafner's RBI single to right.
But that would be it for Cleveland, as Coke, Joaquin Benoit, and Jose Valverde worked a scoreless final three innings in a game that saw the Tigers use seven different pitchers.
"We were trying to milk as many outs as we could from different guys," Leyland said, "but we were almost out of milk.
"This was a great win, not because of the pennant race. It's a great win because we won, and it could have been a disastrous game. But we held on, and that's the important thing."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.