CLEVELAND -- The Tigers' Most Valuable Player candidate did everything in his power to ease the tension on Sunday, but even Miguel Cabrera's go-ahead homer and his attempt at playing peacemaker couldn't keep Detroit from a maddening defeat at Progressive Field.
Cabrera blasted a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers to provide Detroit with a temporary lead in the seventh, but the Indians scored a pair of runs off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth to stave off a three-game sweep and hand the Tigers a 7-6 loss.
The defeat dropped Detroit two games behind the White Sox -- who were winners on Sunday -- in the race for the American League Central crown.
"It was a good comeback win for them," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was ejected in the fifth inning. "There wasn't anything cheap about it. ... Give them credit."
Valverde paraded to the mound in the ninth, aiming to protect a one-run lead and cap an afternoon filled with arguments and injuries. Instead, second baseman Jason Kipnis opened the frame with a double to center. He scored the tying run on catcher Carlos Santana's triple to right that fell just out of the grasp of a leaping Don Kelly. After a pair of intentional walks, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall delivered a walk-off single.
"We put them up against the wall," Tribe skipper Manny Acta said. "They did what they had to do and Lonnie just drilled that pitch. We felt like it was our ballgame, that we gave it away, and we had to take it back. It was good to win the ballgame."
There never would have been a bottom of the ninth had it not been for Cabrera. His majestic long ball in the seventh appeared to relieve the Detroit dugout of plenty of tension that had built up throughout a frustrating afternoon beside Lake Erie.
"He's a great player," Leyland said. "I obviously think he's the MVP."
In the fifth, after hitting a grounder to short, Indians center fielder Michael Brantley appeared to tag first base at the same time second baseman Omar Infante's relay throw arrived. First baseman Prince Fielder voiced his dissatisfaction with umpire Brian Knight's call and Leyland trotted out from the dugout to argue.
Two batters later, after the Indians had knotted the game at 3-3, pitcher Rick Porcello started a potential inning-ending double play on a comebacker to the mound. He fired the ball to second to retire the lead runner, but Knight ruled that Chisenhall beat out the ensuing throw to first. Cabrera had to separate an enraged Fielder from the other umpires. Leyland sprinted out of the dugout and was tossed within moments for the fifth time this season.
"It's frustrating, especially at this time of year," said Porcello, who allowed four runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings. "These are high-intensity games as far as how much they mean. We're right there in this race."
In the sixth, Santana hit a chopper to third, where Cabrera made a diving stop and whirled a high throw to first. Fielder caught the ball, spun around and tagged Santana as he reached first base, but Knight again called the runner safe. As Fielder jumped up and down in anger, Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hustled home to push the Indians' advantage to 5-3.
Fielder chose not to speak with reporters after the game.
"They're bang-bang plays and emotions run high this time of year," Leyland said. "They were unbelievably tough calls. I didn't agree with them, but every umpire is out there doing his best to try to get everything right."
The Tigers finally relinquished their frustration in the seventh. With two outs, Miguel Cabrera socked a slider from sidewinding righty Joe Smith 402 feet to dig Detroit out of a 5-3 hole. In 18 tilts with the Tribe this season, he has tallied 23 of his 123 RBIs. Each time he approached the batter's box during the Tigers' three-game sweep this weekend, the clusters of Tigers fans scattered throughout the ballpark chanted "M-V-P" at the club's leader in batting average, doubles, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. Cabrera totaled six hits in the series and now has nine base knocks in his last four contests.
"You don't know what to do with the guy," Acta said. "I mean, you have a really tough submariner there that is a groundball pitcher and -- somehow, some way -- he ends up hitting that huge homer."
Cabrera couldn't keep the smile from creeping across his face as he circled the bases for the 38th time this year. Still, it wasn't enough to prevent the Indians from taking the season series, 10-8. Now the Tigers enter Monday's makeup game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in need of a victory, and unsure if they'll have the services of center fielder Austin Jackson or catcher Alex Avila, who are both battling injuries.
"[Miguel Cabrera] is just amazing. He's the best," Acta said. "But, it's not about him. We won the ballgame. We won the series against them for the year."