CLEVELAND (AP) — Torii Hunter crossed home plate after hitting a game-tying homer, bashed forearms with Miguel Cabrera and bounded down the steps into Detroit’s jubilant dugout.
At the same time, “Let’s Go Tigers!” chants filled Progressive Field.
The momentum belonged to the guys from Motown.
Then it was gone.
Reliever Al Albuquerque gave up Michael Brantley’s two-run homer in the eighth inning as the Tigers blew a chance to increase their lead in the AL Central by losing 9-6 to the Cleveland Indians, who ended a seven-game losing streak against Detroit.
Brantley’s shot erased a stunning comeback by the Tigers, who trailed 6-1 before scoring twice in the seventh and then tying it on Hunter’s stunning three-run shot off Vinnie Pestano. After rounding the bases, an animated Hunter tried to push his teammates into the lead.
“I was just trying to lift them up,” he said. “We did that for a minute.”
Brantley, who hit a solo homer in the sixth and had a career-high five RBIs, drove a 3-1 pitch from Alburquerque (1-2) over the wall in right as the Indians, a team capable of streaking in any direction at any time, recovered after their bullpen imploded and pulled within 2 1-2 games of the first-place Tigers.
Outscored 16-4 in the first two games of the series, the Indians didn’t quit. It’s not their style.
“The boys came out and punched back,” Pestano said. “They didn’t hang their heads.”
Cody Allen (4-1) got one out in the eighth and closer Chris Perez, who recently came off the disabled list, gave up a single in the ninth before getting his ninth save — one the Indians had to have.
The Tigers had their five-game winning streak snapped, and missed a chance to widen their margin over the second-place Indians, who can split the series on Monday and get back to where they were before it started — if they can beat unbeaten Max Scherzer (13-0).
“You’re talking about a pretty good team over there,” Hunter said. “To win the first two is pretty impressive. Tomorrow isn’t going to be easy. They’re not going to just let us take three out of four.”
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer and Lonnie Chisenhall added a solo shot off Detroit starter Doug Fister, who gave up six runs and six hits in six innings and has just one win in his last 10 starts.
The Indians scored four runs in the first off Fister. He was disappointed he couldn’t follow up solid starts in the series by Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez.
“My job is to keep the team close and I didn’t do my job,” Fister said. “My team scores first and puts up a run and I put them in a hole.”
Hunter had four RBIs and Cabrera homered and had four hits for the Tigers, who took little solace in a comeback that came up a little short.
“We were able to tie the game and give ourselves a chance, but at the same time we lost,” Hunter said. “Wins, that’s all that matters. No matter what you do, late-inning production, I don’t give a doggone … wins.”
Before Brantley’s shot, the Indians were in peril of losing a game that could have haunted them for months.
They had finally gone toe-to-toe with the All-Star loaded Tigers, who shut them out 7-0 on Friday and hammered them again 9-4 on Saturday. Cleveland built a 6-1 lead and got a quality start from Corey Kluber only to have its bullpen waste it.
Down five runs and unable to do much against Kluber, the Tigers stormed back by scoring twice in the seventh and tying it when Hunter, 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in his career against Pestano, drove a 2-1 pitch onto the pedestrian patio in left.
The shot drained the life from Indians fans, but pumped up thousands of Detroit backers.
Cabrera and Prince Fielder followed Hunter’s homer with singles and Indians manager Terry Francona, without a lefty available in the bullpen because Rich Hill pitched the previous four games, pulled Pestano. Allen came in and threw a wild pitch but was able to keep it knotted by striking out Victor Martinez.
The Tigers put one runner on in the ninth, but the game ended with Alex Avila grounding into what became a rundown for a double play.
“We didn’t give in,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We battled. That’s a good thing but today they won the battle. With our pitching, six runs should be enough but it doesn’t always work that way.”
The Indians went up 5-1 after two to support Kluber, who allowed two runs and matched a career high with 10 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.
Cabrera’s 28th homer gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first. With two outs, he drove Kluber’s 96 mph fastball 15 rows up the left-field bleachers for his 90th RBI.
“That’s probably seven years of my minor league career,” Leyland joked. “I don’t know if that’s a very good comparison, me and Miguel Cabrera. He’s amazing. He does things that I marvel at. I don’t know how he does it.”
NOTES: Scherzer will try to become the first pitcher to start a season 14-0 since Roger Clemens in 1986. The right-hander has already beaten the Indians twice this season and won 19 of his last 20 decisions.
The Tigers placed LHP Darin Downs on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. They recalled Evan Reed from Triple-A Toledo.
Before the game, the Indians sent RHP Carlos Carrasco back to Triple-A Columbus. Carrasco (0-4) was recalled Saturday and thumped for six runs and 10 hits in just 3 1-3 innings.
Miguel Cabrera entered the game with 121 hits, the most by a Tigers player through 86 games since Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who had 128 in 1955.