DETROIT (AP) - Jim Leyland insists he isn't worried about battling for first place in June.
His managerial moves don't back up his words.
Less than a week after the Tigers manager was on the verge of using starting pitcher Rick Porcello as a pinch-runner, he did something even more radical Wednesday night against the Indians.
Starting the ninth, trailing 6-4, Leyland used rookie Andy Dirks to pinch hit for his leadoff hitter, Austin Jackson. Dirks struck out on three pitches against Indians closer Chris Perez, and Perez retired the next two batters to finish the game.
The most surprising part of the move was Leyland's explanation.
``Obviously, Perez is throwing the ball very well, but he can get wild,' Leyland said. ``We thought Dirks gave us a better chance of drawing a walk than A.J. did.'
Jackson began his career in sensational style last season, hitting .293 and stealing 27 bases. This year, he got off to an abysmal start, but a recent rally has gotten him to a .254 average with a .315 on-base percentage.
Dirks has only been in the majors for a month, and has an identical on-base percentage to Jackson's, but Leyland still made the move.
``We needed to get someone on base in front of our big guys,' Leyland said. ``It is as simple as that.'
Perez was startled by the move.
``Jackson is a better hitter than Dirks, in my opinion,' he said. ``I know my splits against lefties and righties aren't the best, but I'd much rather face a rookie in Andy Dirks than a guy who was second in the Rookie of the Year voting last year and has seen me six times.'
With the win, Cleveland (36-30) pulled back ahead of Detroit (37-31) at the top of the AL Central by a percentage point. The Tigers had taken the top spot behind Justin Verlander's two-hit shutout Tuesday.
``They pitched better than we did tonight, just like we pitched better than they did last night,' Leyland said. ``That's how this works.'
The Indians entered having lost 15 of 20, but they broke through with four runs in the fourth inning after not scoring more than one in any of their previous four games.
Fausto Carmona (4-8) pitched five innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. Cleveland's bullpen then held Detroit hitless.
Reliever Charlie Furbush (1-1) took the loss.
Cabrera, who broke up Justin Verlander's no-hit bid Tuesday night in the eighth inning, scored a run and drove in two Wednesday, helping Cleveland rally from an early 3-0 deficit. The teams finish the three-game series Thursday, again with first place on the line.
Cleveland's bad breaks continued early in this one. Carlos Santana's drive down the right-field line went foul in the first inning, narrowly missing a home run. He then grounded into a double play.
Brennan Boesch hit a solo homer for Detroit in the bottom half to open the scoring, and Miguel Cabrera followed with a two-out groundball that handcuffed third baseman Jack Hannahan for an infield single. The Tigers eventually loaded the bases, and Alex Avila drove home two more runs with a single.
But the Indians took advantage of an erratic start by Brad Penny. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the fourth with a single, and after a walk to Shin-Soo Choo, Matt LaPorta and Orlando Cabrera hit RBI singles. Following a sacrifice bunt by Hannahan, Lou Marson tied it with a single.
Furbush relieved Penny, and Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly put the Indians ahead 4-3.
Penny allowed four runs on eight hits in 3 1-3 innings. He walked two.
``They got some bloops off me, but it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't made some bad pitches,' Penny said. ``That's baseball.'
Detroit tied it in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI groundout by Boesch, but Cleveland took the lead back in the fifth when Orlando Cabrera hit a run-scoring double down the left-field line.
LaPorta made it 6-4 with an RBI groundout in the seventh.
Carmona, who had lost five straight starts, struck out three and walked two.
Notes: Indians manager Manny Acta said DH Travis Hafner (right oblique strain) had treatment Wednesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland and did some sliding. ... The Indians announced makeup dates for postponed games May 14-15 against Seattle. They'll host a doubleheader against the Mariners on Aug. 23 and also host them Sept. 19. ... Fans began heading for the concourse as rain fell during the sixth inning, but the game wasn't delayed.
The Associated Press News Service
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