CLEVELAND -- For a few moments Sunday, the Indians could briefly stop thinking about the epic slide that has engulfed their season.
Lonnie Chisenhall's bases-loaded single with one out in the ninth inning capped a two-run rally off Detroit closer Jose Velverde and gave Cleveland a 7-6 win over Detroit, dealing the playoff-hopeful Tigers a crucial loss.
For a team that was 10-37 since July 26 going into the game, the win finally provided some relief from the skid that's sent the once-promising season skidding out of control. The players stormed out of the dugout and mobbed Chisenhall as if the Indians were the team fighting for a postseason berth.
"It's definitely exciting," Chisenhall said. "You like to win games like that."
The comeback finally gave manager Manny Acta something to smile about.
"Going into the ninth, for some reason, we felt good about our chances," he said. "We had the right people up. We were at home. We felt good about it working out."
The game featured several twists and turns. The Indians rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to take a one-run lead after six innings. Miguel Cabrera's three-run homer in the seventh off Joe Smith put Detroit ahead 6-5 and it appeared the Tigers were ready to sweep the three-game series.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected in the fifth inning and catcher Alex Avila was hurt in a sixth-inning collision with first baseman Prince Fielder as they chased a foul popup. The loss dropped Detroit two games behind first-place Chicago in the AL Central. The teams meet in Chicago on Monday to make up a game that was postponed last week.
"I was a good comeback," Leyland said of Cleveland's rally. "There wasn't anything cheap about it. Give them credit. They came back to win the game. That's the way it goes. Turn the page and move on."
Jason Kipnis doubled off Valverde (3-3) and scored the tying run on a one-out triple by Carlos Santana.
Valverde then intentionally walked both Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera to face Chisenhall, who lined the first pitch to right-center.
"You've got to get the ball to the outfield there," Chisenhall said. "They weren't walking guys to get to me, I'd like to think. They were trying to get the bases loaded and have the force out."
Esmil Rogers (2-1) pitched one inning for the win.
Valverde suffered his fifth blown save in 36 chances as he worked for the third day in a row.
"I think I made good pitches, but they hit them," Valverde said. "I want to be perfect, but I am not. You have to credit them. It wasn't my velocity. It was location. And they hit the pitches."
If the Tigers don't make the playoffs, their inability to beat the Indians will be a major reason why. Cleveland won the season series 10-8.
"They are playing hard," Leyland said. "Nobody in the big leagues lays down, I can tell you that right now. They have played us tough all year."
Cleveland scored two unearned runs in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. Leyland was ejected for arguing a call on the play that put the Indians ahead.
With the score 3-3, first-base umpire Brian Knight ruled that shortstop Jhonny Peralta's throw trying to complete an inning-ending double play was too late to beat Chisenhall as Brantley scored from third base.
Fielder hopped off the bag and yelled after taking the throw and Leyland came out to argue. Cabrera was restrained by other umps from going from his third base position across the diamond to join in.
Earlier in the inning, Leyland disputed another call by Knight that kept Detroit from completing a double play on a grounder by Brantley.
Leyland said Avila sustained a sprained jaw after colliding with Fielder, who is listed at 275 pounds. The two were chasing Santana's foul ball in front of the Tigers' dugout, which fell to the ground.
Given new life, Santana got an RBI single on another questionable call by Knight. With Asdrubal Cabrera on second, Santana hit a grounder between third and short that Miguel Cabrera snared with a dive. His high throw from his knees pulled Fielder off the bag, but the first baseman tagged Santana. Knight ruled safe as Asdrubal Cabrera kept running and scored.
"I'm not blaming the umpire," Leyland said. "He gave a great effort. They were tough calls. I'll tell you what, they were close, they were really close."
Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez allowed three runs in six innings.
NOTES: Jimenez, 1-9 in 13 starts since the All-Star break, still has a 9-16 record and avoided becoming the first Indians pitcher to lose 17 games since Tom Candiotti went 7-18 in 1987. ... Indians 1B Matt LaPorta was twice shaken up after crashing into a railing while trying to catch foul popups in the same at-bat by Tigers 2B Omar Infante in the ninth. He stayed in the game. ... The Indians are off Monday and open a three-game series at home against Minnesota on Tuesday.