CLEVELAND — The dead men walking showed some life Sunday at Progressive Field. And the result was a walk-off win.
Trailing by a run after a three-run home run from Miguel Cabrera, the Indians rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning, then won it 7-6 on Lonnie Chisenhall’s RBI single off Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
The victory, just Cleveland’s second in its last nine games, broke a last-place tie with the Twins in the Central Division. Detroit fell two games behind the first-place White Sox.
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“It was an exciting ballgame,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team was officially eliminated from playoff contention Saturday.
“Coming into the ninth, we felt pretty good about our chances. We had the right guys up at the plate and we were at home.
“We felt like it was our ballgame. We gave it away and we had to take it back.”
Cleveland led 5-3 before Cabrera’s big blast changed the complexion of the game, and appeared to be sending the Indians to another loss. But in what has been a rare sight this season, Cleveland didn’t go quietly after entering the ninth inning facing a deficit.
Jason Kipnis led off the final inning with a double before Valverde got Asdrubal Cabrera to fly out to shallow center. Carlos Santana followed with a game-tying triple off the wall in right.
Detroit chose to walk the next two hitters, bringing Chisenhall to the plate with the bases full and one out.
He made the Tigers pay, drilling the first pitch he saw from Valverde over right fielder Don Kelly’s head to touch off the celebration.
“You have to get the ball in the outfield on that,” Chisenhall said. “It’s fun to be in that situation. It puts all the pressure on the defense.”
The Indians trailed 3-0 after three innings, with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez struggling to find his command. But Jimenez turned it around, keeping the Indians within striking range by holding Detroit scoreless over his final three innings of work.
He allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over six innings.
“Ubaldo deserves a lot of credit,” Acta said. “He started shaky but then he got into a good groove. He battled really hard for us and gave us a quality start.”
Though he worked a positive outing Sunday, it has been a subpar season for Jimenez, who is 9-16 with a 5.43 ERA in 30 starts.
“It’s been a tough season,” said Jimenez, who has just one win since July 14 (13 starts). “It’s been up-and-down, mostly down instead of up.”
Cleveland got to Tigers starter Rick Porcello for two runs in the fourth on Shin-Shoo Choo’s base hit, then took the lead with two more runs in the fifth.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was ejected in the fifth during his second argument of the inning with umpire Brian Knight, who called a couple of close plays at first base Cleveland’s way. Both plays would have ended the inning.
Knight also appeared to miss a close play at first that went in the Indians’ favor and led to another run in the sixth.
Even with the blown calls, the Tigers were on the verge of leaving town with momentum before the Indians staged their comeback.
“It’s about time,” Jimenez said of the come-from-behind win. “The kind of season we’ve been through, it’s nice to get that exciting win.”
Santana’s triple was his second of the season and both came in the last two days. He is the first Cleveland player to collect triples in back-to-back games since Kenny Lofton in 2007.