DETROIT -- It took until late August, but Max Scherzer finally beat an AL Central opponent.
"That happens," Scherzer said. "When you are in the majors and you don't bring your A-game, every team out there can beat you. In those games, I didn't pitch my best, and they beat me. Tonight, I pitched effectively, and we got a win."
Scherzer (9-9) allowed two or fewer runs for the fifth straight start, and is now 8-5 with a 2.28 ERA after spending two starts with Triple-A Toledo in May.
"The way he handled that was one of the biggest things that has happened to him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He went down with the perfect attitude -- that he belonged up here, but he had to fix some things to get back to this level. He's getting better all of the time.
Scherzer, who gave up four hits while striking out eight, said the difference has been strictly mechanical.
"I'm able to command three pitches again," he said. "Tonight, I was able to show my slider, and my changeup was really good. I'm executing pitches. That's the only difference between then and now."
Don Kelly homered and Austin Jackson doubled, singled and scored twice for the Tigers.
Phil Coke pitched a perfect eighth for the Tigers and Jose Valverde closed for his 24th straight successful save.
"That was just a good baseball game all around," said Brandon Inge. "We remember that we lost four straight at their place, so we know that we are going to have to work hard to beat them."
Detroit pitchers have only allowed two runs on seven hits in the first two games of the weekend series.
"This is a very young team, and we have to work through stretches like this," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I can't expect these guys to just turn into Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Matt Holliday and Grady Sizemore. This is the team we have, and we aren't going to whine about it. We'll take it like men and keep working."
Rookie Josh Tomlin (1-3) allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings.
"He gave up six extra base hits, so you know he was leaving too many pitches over the fat part of the plate," Acta said. "We need to see him do a better job of mixing his pitches. Tonight, he got too in love with his cutter."
The Tigers led 2-1 after a messy first inning that saw the teams combine for three errors and a run-scoring wild pitch.
Shin-Soo Choo reached on a two-out error by Tigers second baseman Will Rhymes, stole second and scored when right fielder Brennan Boesch dropped Travis Hafner's sinking liner for another error.
Detroit tied the game in the bottom half on Ryan Raburn's RBI double. Raburn later scored the go-ahead run on Tomlin's wild pitch.
Hafner's RBI single tied the game in the third, but Jayson Nix followed by grounding into an inning-ending double play and Inge restored Detroit's advantage with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly.
"I thought the third inning was really our chance," Acta said. "We had guys on base for our big hitters, but they made a nice play to turn a double play and get out of the inning. That was our best opportunity all night."
Kelly, who had a career-high four hits Friday night, made it 4-2 with a home run in the fifth with Tomlin. With two outs and a runner on second, the Indians intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera for the second time in the game and Boesch responded with an RBI double to give the Tigers a three-run lead.
Leyland said before the game that he wouldn't be surprised if Magglio Ordonez misses the rest of the season with a fractured ankle sustained on July 24. Ordonez had his cast removed Friday, but is still on crutches and unable to do any weight-bearing exercises. ... Boesch got his 100th hit, joining fellow rookie Jackson in triple figures. The last time two Tigers rookies had 100 or more hits in the same season was Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell in 1978. "That's a good thing - I'm proud of them," Leyland said. "They've still got over a month to grind out, which they aren't used to, but they've done very well." ... Scherzer's ERA is his last five starts is 1.35. ... Hafner went 2 for 4 and is hitting .404 in his last 15 games.