Lofton’s pinch-hit single in 10th and Westbrook’s pitching lift Indians to 3-1 win over Tigers

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DETROIT (AP)—Jim Leyland doesn’t want the Detroit Tigers to stare at the standings.

That’s probably a good idea because the slumping Tigers are slipping behind Cleveland in the AL Central and losing ground in the wild-card race.

Pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton’s infield single off Joel Zumaya broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the 10th inning, and the Indians went on to beat Detroit 3-1 Thursday.

Cleveland won the three-game series and lead the Tigers in the division by 2 1/2 games, the biggest cushion since it was ahead by three games on July 3.

“These types of series really test you,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “I’m really pleased with the way our guys competed.”

Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook and Detroit’s Nate Robertson kept the game scoreless through eight innings.

Then in a battle of the bullpens, the Indians did better—barely.

Down 3-0 in the 10th, the Tigers still had a chance to win a series for the first time since mid-July. Marcus Thames hit an RBI double with two outs off Joe Borowski, putting a pair of runners in scoring position, but Ivan Rodriguez popped up to end the game.

The Indians and Tigers are scheduled to play only one more series, a three-game set Sept. 17-19 in Cleveland. With Seattle and New York playing well in the wild-card race, they might be competing for only one spot in the postseason.

“I don’t really worry about that,” Leyland said. “The issue is to win games.

“If you sit around and stare at the standings and don’t do anything about it, you’ve got problems.”

The Tigers clearly have problems.

Since they had the best record in the majors and a two-game lead in the division on July 21, they are 10-22 and have lost five of their last six.

“We get the pitching one night, and we don’t get the hitting. Then, we have the pitching and not the hitting,” Curtis Granderson said. “We just have to put it together.

“Nate pitched well and all we had to do was score one run.”

Westbrook and three relievers didn’t let Detroit score until it was too late.

Seeming to turn his season around, Westbrook turned in another strong performance. He allowed five hits and two walks—one intentional—over eight innings. He is 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in August after starting the season 1-6.

Robertson gave up four hits and no walks in a season-high 8 2-3 innings.

“Robertson was as good as we’ve seen him and he’s been good against us a few times. He took it to another level,” Wedge said. “Jake was right there with him against that lineup and in their backyard.”

A sold-out crowd gave Robertson a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout after giving up a double to Grady Sizemore.

Zumaya (1-2) left Sizemore stranded, but gave up a leadoff double to Victor Martinez and intentionally walked Travis Hafner in the 10th.

He had a shot at getting a key double play, but Ryan Garko beat the relay throw. After Jhonny Peralta drew a four-pitch walk, Franklin Gutierrez struck out.

Lofton batted for Jason Michaels and got the go-ahead hit. Chris Gomez followed with a two-run single.

“The killer was the Gomez hit,” Leyland said.

Zumaya made his second appearance in three days since coming off the disabled list after a three-month absence because of a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger.

“He’s not going to strike out everyone and throw 100 every time,” Leyland said. “I’m not disappointed in him at all. I’m disappointed that we just couldn’t get a big hit.”

Borowski got his 36th save in 41 chances. He retired the first two Tigers in the 10th before Magglio Ordonez doubled, Carlos Guillen bunted for a single and Thames doubled.

Rafael Perez (1-1) got the win, his first in the majors. He struck out the only batter he faced, fanning Granderson after the Tigers put two on with two outs in the ninth against Rafael Betancourt.

Both teams made slick plays defensively, and the best perhaps came in the fifth inning with Detroit’s Brandon Inge on second with one out. Gutierrez sprinted to catch a liner against the right-field wall, and threw to second for an inning-ending double play.

“I made a mistake with a cutter, but he made a great catch,” Westbrook said. “It ended up being a big play.”

Notes

Detroit traded OF Craig Monroe and cash to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named by Oct. 15. … The Tigers plan to option RHP Zach Miner to Triple-A Toledo to make room for LHP Andrew Miller, who will start Friday night against Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees. … Westbrook has lasted at least seven innings in five of his last six starts. … Tigers DH Gary Sheffield (shoulder) missed his second straight game and doesn’t plan on facing one of his former teams, the Yankees.

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