David Dellucci's tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning lifted Cleveland to a 6-3 win over the Tigers on Saturday.
Victor Martinez also hit a two-run home run and C.C. Sabathia tied for the league lead with his seventh victory to help the Indians beat Detroit for the second straight day, giving them a 1½-game lead in the AL Central.
"We just want to keep winning and be there at the end," Sabathia said. "They have a great ballclub, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were there at the end."
Justin Verlander left the game with a 3-2 lead after six innings, but such slim leads aren't as safe with relievers Bobby Seay and Jason Grilli filling in for injured standouts Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney.
"I don't think they care too much," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
"That's a good ballclub," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "For me, I don't take it any further than that."
The Indians led off the eighth inning with three straight hits off Grilli (2-2), who left the game after Ryan Garko's comebacker hit his left knee, and built a three-run lead on Dellucci's homer and Travis Hafner's sacrifice fly.
X-rays on Grilli's knee were negative.
"I'm not concerned about that," Grilli said. "It was insult to injury. I was the goat today and I'm not happy about it."
The Tigers aren't pleased that two of their top relievers -- and starter Kenny Rogers -- are on the disabled list, but they're not making excuses.
"We have some health issues, but so does everybody else," Leyland said.
The Tigers put Rodney on the 15-day DL with biceps tendinitis Saturday, a blow for a bullpen already without Zumaya because of finger surgery.
"Do I feel the same about our bullpen as I do when I had Zumaya and Rodney? No, I don't," Leyland said. "But I thought we'd win that game today, but to their credit they beat us."
Marcus Thames homered for the Tigers, who have lost three of their past five games.
Sabathia (7-1) allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked one, helping him win his 88th career game -- easily the most for any pitcher younger than 27.
"He's been good all year, for that matter 2½ years," Wedge said.
Verlander gave up two runs and three hits over six innings.
He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in all 10 of his starts, the longest streak to start a season by a Detroit pitcher since David Wells allowed three or fewer runs in his first 12 starts in 1993.
The reigning AL Rookie of the Year left the game with a one-run lead, but Seay and Grilli blew his bid to win a fifth straight game.
Verlander insisted, however, that he hasn't lost confidence in the bullpen replacements.
"We still have some good pitchers down there," he said. "They're struggling a little bit, but they'll turn it around."
Each team had the lead and there was a tie over the first four innings.
Thames' shattered-bat homer sent the baseball nearly 400 feet to left and a shard of wood fluttered about 100 feet away from home plate, giving Detroit a 1-0 lead in the second.
"He's got big-time power," Leyland said.
The Indians went ahead 2-1 in the third on Martinez's two-out, two-run homer. It was his eighth homer of the season and extended the team's streak with a homer to a season-high 10 games.
Detroit led off a third straight inning with a double in the sixth with Placido Polanco's hit. Sheffield followed with a single and Polanco went from sprinting to stopping awkwardly when third base coach Gene Lamont signaled for him to stop. Polanco scored on Magglio Ordonez's sacrifice fly, then left the game with a muscle spasm in his oblique and was listed day-to-day.
"When they held me at third base, I felt something in my ribs, but it wasn't a big deal," Polanco said. "But when I slid at home plate, I was out of breath for a while and I couldn't talk or breathe. But it's nothing major or nothing bad."
Polanco said he hoped to play Sunday night in the series finale, but Leyland doubted he would have the second baseman in the lineup.
- Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels also have seven wins in the AL.
- Cleveland RHP Paul Byrd, who got the win in Friday night's 7-4 victory over Detroit, has more wins this season (five) than walks (three).
- Verlander struck out five, walked four and hit a batter.