CLEVELAND (AP) - They aren't running away with the AL Central. In fact, they're chasing two teams.
The Detroit Tigers haven't lived up to expectations.
And they don't seem very concerned - yet.
``We're not worried,' Prince Fielder said following a 5-3 loss to the first-place Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. ``With this team, never. We have a lot of people doing it for us. We had some chances, but didn't get it done. Not because of mistakes, just because that's baseball.'
Down by two, the Tigers put two runners on with one out in the ninth against Indians closer Chris Perez, who had spent the previous few days criticizing Cleveland's fans for not showing up this season. Detroit seemed to be poised to make Perez into a bigger villain than he was already being portrayed at home.
But Perez struck out Miguel Cabrera for the second out and then got Fielder to ground into a game-ending forceout for his 14th save in 15 tries.
It was Detroit's first loss to Cleveland in 11 games dating to last season. The Tigers were the ones who slammed shut the Indians' playoff hopes late in 2011.
``It's a loss, just a loss,' Fielder said. ``We're going to be all right. We start analyzing every little thing, that's when you make the game a whole lot harder than it is. I hit that ball hard, but there's no GPS on it. I took a swing, hit it, but can't control where it goes.'
The Tigers failed to take advantage of six walks from Ubaldo Jimenez (5-3), went 1 of 7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners, including the two in the ninth with their big guns at the plate.
``We had the guys up there we wanted,' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``The guy (Perez) threw a nasty, nasty pitch to Cabrera and then Prince the ball hard, but at a guy.'
Alex Avila hit a three-run homer for the Tigers, who extinguished any thoughts the Indians had of making the postseason last year by winning the last 10 meetings.
Jimenez didn't take any chances with Detroit's big bats.
He walked Cabrera three times, struck out Fielder once and got the Tigers' high-priced slugger, whose $23 million salary this season is a third of Cleveland's entire payroll, to bounce into a double play in the fifth.
It was another positive performance for the inconsistent Jimenez, who allowed three runs and three hits and managed to work around his lack of control. He walked six, but was only burned by one of them as a one-out pass set up Avila's homer in the second.
Porcello gave up four earned runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. The loss was only the right-hander's second in seven career decisions against Cleveland.
``I got two strikes on some guys, but couldn't put them away,' Porcello said. ``Especially in that sixth inning, letting those two runs score was big. The frustrating part for me was not going out and putting together a consistent start. I felt fine, had a good game plan, but just didn't finish it off.'
Cleveland snapped a 3-3 tie with two runs in the sixth off Porcello on Casey Kotchman's RBI single and Jose Lopez's RBI double.
Although the Tigers were the ones who put the Indians away last season, neither Indians manager Manny Acta or Leyland would put much importance on the first matchup of 2012.
Leyland knows his team needs to play better, but he's not panicked by the Tigers' recent struggles.
``We hit the ball a lot better than our production showed,' he said. ``We're not necessarily in a funk funk, we just didn't score enough runs. I don't think anybody played a bad ball game. Avila had the big hit for us, put us ahead, then they kept nickel and diming Ricky.'
NOTES: Tigers CF Austin Jackson was a late scratch and missed his fifth game in a row with a strained left hamstring. After the game, the club said they will call up OF Quintin Berry from Triple-A Toledo to play center. RHP Collin Ballester will be designated for assignment to make room for Berry. ... Before the game, Detroit placed INF/OF Ryan Raburn on the bereavement list and called up INF Danny Worth from Toledo. ... The Tigers tied a club record by going 110 games since their last shutout. They were last blanked on July 16 last season by the Chicago White Sox.
The Associated Press News Service
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