DETROIT -- Ubaldo Jimenez was crisp, cool and clean. The relievers who followed him, however, were not.
Jimenez scattered three hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and one walk on Saturday night and Cleveland piled up just enough of a lead to withstand a late Detroit charge for a 7-6 victory.
"Uncharacteristically," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "our bullpen didn't command the strike zone very well."
Jimenez turned a 6-1 lead over his bullpen, but Detroit scored four in the seventh, three off Nick Hagadone and one off Cody Allen.
A dropped throw at first by Nick Swisher in the ninth gave Detroit life against closer Chris Perez, who had to work for his sixth save.
Still, it took a sparkling behind-the-back flip by second baseman Jason Kipnis on a ground ball up the middle by Austin Jackson to keep Cleveland from muffing the lead.
Torii Hunter's RBI single to right drew the Tigers within a run, but Perez got Miguel Cabrera to top a 3-2 pitch slowly to third for the final out of the game.
"After I got my chew out of my throat, I was oK," Francona said. "That was a great play, probably the only play that could be made."
Kipnis was running behind the bag to field the ball and would not have gotten Jackson at second if he had tried to make a conventional throw. Without the forceout, it would have been bases loaded and one out. Instead, it was runner at first and second with two out with Hunter coming up.
Jimenez (3-2) won his third straight start and bested Detroit ace Justin Verlander (4-3), who was uncharacteristically wild and walked in a run for only the third time in his career. Jimenez has walked six batters in his three wins, a total he often reached in one game in the past. This year, though, the right-hander has walked more than three hitters in a game just once.
"He had so much movement on his two-seam fastball," Francona said. "He kept his fastball down. He had a lot of action on it and it set up his off-speed stuff.
"Mickey (pitching coach Callaway) and he have worked really hard on keeping his fastball down. His direction to the plate (in his delivery) has been the key."
The only run he allowed came on a leadoff home run by Jhonny Peralta in the second, his third home run of the season.
Meantime, the Indians worked over Verlander.
The Detroit ace walked three batters in the first and faced eight hitters in the inning, driving up his pitch count to the point where getting beyond the fifth was going to be a problem. He pitched just five innings, walking five and fanning seven while allowing six hits.
Swisher's RBI double and a bases-loaded walk to Jason Giambi gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead right off the top. The Indians added a third run in the next inning on a two-out single by Kipnis plus Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI double.
"We talked before the game about making him work for everything," Francona said. "He's so good, so strong, so durable.
"Sometimes, the best way to beat him is to get him out early."
An RBI single by Mark Reynolds in the fifth, an RBI single by Cabrera in the sixth and a pinch-RBI single by Mike Aviles in the seventh put Cleveland up 6-1.
But Detroit struck back as soon as Jimenez left the game. Nick Hagadone didn't get anybody out in the seventh and left three on for Cody Allen to deal with.
Pinch-hitter Brayan Pena hit a sacrifice fly and Omar Infante followed with a two-run triple to draw the Tigers up to 6-4. Jackson's RBI groundout to second made it 6-5.
Giambi's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth gave Cleveland just enough of an edge.
NOTES: Left-hander Drew Smyly gave up a run in the sixth, the first time he has been scored upon in his last eight appearances dating to April 12. That covered 13 1/3 scoreless innings. ... Right-hander Trevor Bauer will be called up from Triple-A Columbus on Monday to pitch the second game of Cleveland's doubleheader against the visiting New York Yankees. "You see all the stuff, especially the fastball," Francona said. "He doesn't necessarily always have to command it, but there does have to be a higher percentage of strikes. I think this guy is going to be what we're looking for. It's just going to take time to develop. He's a little stubborn, but I think you're going to see the day when you're glad he is." ... Tigers right-hander Octavio Dotel recently got a second opinion on his inflamed right elbow that confirmed the original diagnosis. He was told to rest for six days, continue medication and then try to throw again next week. "There is no structural damage," manager Jim Leyland said. Dotel has been on the disabled list since April 20. ... Right-hander Brett Myers, on the disabled list since April 20 with right elbow inflammation, threw a bullpen session on Saturday for the Indians. Myers will throw again early next week if his elbow responds well to Saturday's session. He'll be traveling with the team to Philadelphia on Tuesday. ... Matt Tuiasosopo will get a start in left field in one of the three games Detroit hosts Houston on Monday through Wednesday. "He'll start one of those games against Houston," Leyland said. Tuiasosopo pinch-hit on Saturday night and walked. He also grounded into an inning-ending rally at the end of a tough at-bat in the eighth. The Astros will be starting right-handers in all three games.