CLEVELAND — Michael Brantley’s two-run homer in the eighth inning off Al Alburquerque helped Cleveland snap a seven-game skid against Detroit and gave the Indians an 9-6 win today, trimming one game off the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central.
Brantley hit a solo homer in the sixth and had a career-high five RBIs. He drove a 3-1 pitch from Alburquerque (1-2) over the wall in right as the Indians recovered after their bullpen blew a five-run lead.
Detroit had overpowered Cleveland in the first two games of the four-game series, and the Tigers rallied to tie it 6-all in the eighth on Torii Hunter’s three-run homer.
Cody Allen (4-1) got one out in the eighth and Chris Perez gave up a single in the ninth before getting his ninth save.
Detroit had its five-game winning streak snapped.
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer and Lonnie Chisenhall added a solo shot as the Indians moved within 2 1-2 games of the first-place Tigers.
Hunter had four RBIs and Miguel Cabrera homered and had four hits for Detroit, which lost to the Indians for just the fourth time in 15 games.
Before Brantley’s shot, the Indians were in danger of losing a game that could have haunted them for months.
They had finally gone toe-to-toe with the All-Star loaded Tigers, who shut them out 7-0 on Friday and hammered them again 9-4 on Saturday. Cleveland built a 6-1 lead and got a quality start from Corey Kluber only to have its bullpen waste it.
But the Indians rallied and can now get a split of the series and back to where they were before it started — if they can beat unbeaten Max Scherzer (13-0) on Monday.
Trailing 6-1 and unable to do much against Kluber, the Tigers stormed back by scoring twice in the seventh and tying it on Hunter’s three-run shot off Vinnie Pestano in the eighth.
Hunter was 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in his career against the right-hander before he drove a 2-1 pitch onto the pedestrian patio in left.
The shot drained the life from Indians fans, but pumped up Detroit rooters, who filled Progressive Field with chants of “Let’s Go Tigers!”
Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed with singles and Indians manager Terry Francona, without a lefty available in the bullpen because Rich Hill pitched the previous four games, pulled Pestano. Allen came in and threw a wild pitch but was able to keep it knotted by striking out Victor Martinez.
Kluber was lifted in the seventh after allowing a one-out double as Francona put his faith — and a five-run lead — in the hands of a bullpen that has been shaky at best.
Joe Smith came on and gave up three straight singles, the final two RBIs by Hunter and Cabrera to make it 6-3 before the sidearmer retired Fielder. He walked Martinez to load the bases but got Jhonny Peralta on a routine fly to right, keeping Cleveland up by three.
But Pestano gave the lead away.
After being manhandled for the second straight game, the Indians held a brief team meeting Saturday intended to try and get them back on track.
“We’ve just come out flat the last couple days,” All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “We’re looking to change that.”
They did for six innings.
The Indians built a 5-1 lead after two, which seemed to be more than enough support for Kluber, who gave Cleveland its first quality start of the series and not a moment too soon. He allowed two runs and matched a career-high with 10 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.
Cabrera’s 28th homer gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first. With two outs, Cabrera drove Kluber’s first pitch, a 96 mph fastball, 15 rows up the left-field bleachers.
But the Indians came right back, scoring four in their first at-bat against Doug Fister, who got two outs before putting himself in a bind by walking Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher. Brantley made him pay by doubling over the head of left fielder Andy Dirks, putting the Indians ahead for the first time in the series.
Cleveland’s players were still exchanging high-fives in the dugout when Santana launched his 11th homer into the right-field seats to make it 4-1.
Chisenhall opened the second with his fifth homer to give Kluber a four-run cushion.
NOTES: Scherzer will try to become the first pitcher to start a season 14-0 since Roger Clemens in 1986. The right-hander has already beaten the Indians twice this season and won 19 of his last 20 decisions. ... The Tigers placed LHP Darin Downs on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. They recalled Evan Reed from Triple-A Toledo. ... Before the game, the Indians sent RHP Carlos Carrasco back to Triple-A Columbus. Carrasco (0-4) was recalled Saturday and thumped for six runs and 10 hits in just 3 1-3 innings. ... Miguel Cabrera entered the game with 121 hits, the most by a Tigers player through 86 games since Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who had 128 in 1955.