CLEVELAND -- As if waving some magic wand, Kevin Millwood makes the most frightening situations disappear.
One instant, the bases are loaded. The next, it's presto-chango, abracadabra and alakazam -- inning over for the Cleveland Indians. Another head-scratching escape.
"It was like, 'Did I just see that?' Detroit manager Alan Trammell said. "We've got the bases loaded and we're all excited. Seconds later ... Wow!"
Millwood kept it close for five nerve-racking innings before Aaron Boone hit a two-run homer and Casey Blake and Coco Crisp hit solo shots as the Indians kept the pressure on in the AL wild-card scramble with a 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Boone's homer off Nate Robertson (6-13) tied it 2-2 in the fifth inning before Blake and Crisp connected in the sixth. Cleveland's last 15 runs have all come via homers.
The Indians, who began the day trailing New York by one-half game in the wild card, have won four in a row, 12 of 14.
"We're playing as good as anyone right now," Millwood said.
Cleveland's three homers -- the Indians have 31 in their last 16 games -- wouldn't have meant anything, though, if not for Millwood's tenacity. The right-hander made two Houdini-like escapes, wiggling out of jams in the first and third innings when the Tigers had a chance to blow it open.
Millwood's knack for dodging trouble is nothing new, with opponents 0-for-16 against him with the bases full. He allowed one earned run and seven hits while throwing 110 pitches in five innings.
"It's nothing like I've ever seen," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Millwood's ability to elude danger. "He throws 60 pitches in the first couple innings and did nothing but get much stronger. He's tough. It wasn't like it was just today, either, he's been doing that all year."
Millwood would obviously prefer more 1-2-3 innings, but they've been rare for him this season.
"It hasn't been easy," said Millwood, who has the lowest run support (3.23 runs in 26 starts) in the AL. "But I've been able to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win, that's a starter's job."
Rafael Betancourt (3-3) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and Bob Howry struck out Brandon Inge with the bases loaded to end the seventh. Bob Wickman pitched the ninth for his 37th save, matching his career-high set with Milwaukee in 1999.
The Tigers have lost 13 of 15, including eight straight for the first time since 2003.
"We stunk," Inge said. "I've got nothing else to say."
Robertson puzzled the Indians for the first four innings, holding them without a hit until Ronnie Belliard's one-out blooper to left-center fell in front of diving outfielders Dmitri Young and Curtis Granderson for a double. One out later, Boone lined a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left for his 14th homer to tie it 2-2.
Robertson wished he could have the pitch to Boone back.
"I threw three straight changeups to Boone, then a fastball inside and he turned on it." Robertson said. "That club is doing all the things right, right now."
Blake, who homered twice Wednesday when the Indians completed a three-game series sweep in Detroit, led off the sixth with his 20th homer to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. With one out, Crisp hit his 12th.
Millwood was down 2-0 before getting his first out. The Tigers went up 1-0 on an RBI single from Chris Shelton. They scored an unearned run when second baseman Belliard couldn't handle Ivan Rodriguez's tricky grounder and Shelton scored on catcher Josh Bard's passed ball.
But as he has done all season, Millwood was able to minimize the damage. The right-hander got Young to hit into a double play and retired Inge on a foul fly to right.
Millwood was in more trouble in the third as the Tigers loaded the bases on two walks and a single. But Millwood again ducked trouble, getting Inge to hit into double play before striking out Omar Infante.
"He makes tough pitches when he has to," Boone said. "He's been fun to play behind."
Robertson allowed four runs in seven innings and fell to 1-6 in his last nine starts.
Opponents are batting .190 (29-for-153) against Millwood with runners in scoring position. ... Cleveland is 9-1 vs. Detroit since Aug. 5. ... Shelton had 19 total chances -- 17 putouts, two assists -- in Detroit's loss Wednesday night, the most by a Tigers first baseman since Skeeter Barnes had 20 on May 15, 1992. ... Thursday marked the 10th anniversary of Cleveland's first AL Central title, which earned the club its first postseason trip since 1954. ... Indians C Victor Martinez was given a day off. He has been the majors' best hitter since the All-Star break with a .380 average.
|Players of the Game|
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|Placido Polanco, 2B||4||1||1||0||1||0||0||.325|
|Chris Shelton, 1B||5||1||3||1||0||1||2||.300|
|Ivan Rodriguez, C||5||0||0||0||0||3||4||.287|
|Magglio Ordonez, RF||4||0||2||0||1||1||0||.326|
|Dmitri Young, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.267|
|Carlos Pena, DH||1||0||1||0||2||0||0||.237|
|a- Craig Monroe, PH-DH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.276|
|Brandon Inge, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||7||.261|
|Omar Infante, SS||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.227|
|Curtis Granderson, CF||4||0||0||0||0||3||1||.240|
|a-walked for Pena in the 7th|
|2B - Placido Polanco (22, Millwood), Chris Shelton (20, Millwood), Omar Infante (28, Millwood)|
|RBI - Chris Shelton (47)|
|SB - Omar Infante (7, 3rd base off Millwood/Bard)|
|Team LOB - 11|
|DP - Infante-Polanco-Shelton|
|Nate Robertson (L,6-13)||7||5||4||4||2||4||3||4.36|
|Pitches-Strikes - Nate Robertson 103-69, Doug Creek 7-4, Chris Spurling 5-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Nate Robertson 13-3, Doug Creek 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Nate Robertson 27, Doug Creek 2, Chris Spurling 1|
|Grady Sizemore, CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.284|
|Coco Crisp, LF||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||.298|
|Jhonny Peralta, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.281|
|Travis Hafner, DH||1||0||0||0||2||1||0||.305|
|Ron Belliard, 2B||3||1||2||0||0||0||1||.282|
|Jose Hernandez, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||0||3||.233|
|Ben Broussard, 1B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.253|
|Aaron Boone, 3B||3||1||1||2||0||0||0||.243|
|Josh Bard, C||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.185|
|Casey Blake, RF||3||1||1||1||0||0||0||.245|
|2B - Ron Belliard 2 (32, Robertson, Robertson)|
|HR - Coco Crisp (12, Robertson), Aaron Boone (14, Robertson), Casey Blake (20, Robertson)|
|RBI - Coco Crisp (57), Aaron Boone 2 (51), Casey Blake (48)|
|2-OUT RBI - Aaron Boone 2 (19)|
|Team LOB - 2|
|DP - Hernandez-Belliard, A. Boone-Bard-Hernandez|
|PB - Josh Bard (3)|
|E - Ron Belliard (12, Misplayed grounder)|
|Rafael Betancourt (W,3-3)||1.2||2||0||0||0||1||0||3.16|
|Bob Howry (H,25)||1.1||0||0||0||0||2||0||2.58|
|Bob Wickman (S,37)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||2.73|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Millwood 110-64, Rafael Betancourt 26-18, Scott Sauerbeck 4-0, Bob Howry 14-13, Bob Wickman 9-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Millwood 4-4, Rafael Betancourt 2-2, Bob Howry 2-0, Bob Wickman 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Kevin Millwood 25, Rafael Betancourt 7, Scott Sauerbeck 1, Bob Howry 4, Bob Wickman 3|
|Attendance - 20363|
|Game Time - 2:48|
|Temperature - 79|
|Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Mike DiMuro, Second Base - Brian Gorman, Third Base - Mark Carlson|