DETROIT – Brennan Boesch came running in and dropped Carlos Santana's short fly ball, keeping Cleveland's rally going.
Nobody who follows the 2012 Detroit Tigers could have been too surprised by what happened next.
"We had a little miscue and we didn't pitch above it," manager Jim Leyland said. "When you are going good, you make an error and the guy pops up the next pitch. When you are going bad, the guy hits a three-run homer on the next pitch."
Michael Brantley hit the three-run homer to give Cleveland an early lead, and Johnny Damon added a two-run single and an impressive catch in left field to help the Indians to a 9-6 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night.
Casey Kotchman hit a two-run shot for the Indians, who improved to 5-0 against Detroit this season.
Miguel Cabrera and Don Kelly hit solo homers for the Tigers.
The slumping, banged-up Tigers fell six games under .500 and 5½ behind second-place Cleveland, which trails only the Chicago White Sox at the top of the AL Central.
Jeanmar Gomez (4-4) allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings for Cleveland. Four relievers held Detroit to one hit the rest of the way, with Chris Perez pitching the ninth for his 19th save in 20 chances.
"Our bullpen once again proved to be our strength, but our offense was big too today," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Max Scherzer (5-4) allowed five earned runs in 4 1-3 innings — and three unearned runs in the first.
Boesch, Detroit's struggling right fielder, went hitless at the plate, but it was his dropped fly with two outs in the first that really cost the Tigers. Brantley hit a drive just inside the pole in right on the next pitch to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
Damon, who had been on the paternity list to be with his wife and new twin daughters, was activated Wednesday. He robbed Prince Fielder of what might have been a homer in the second with a nice catch at the wall.
After Kelly did homer in the third, Kotchman answered the following inning to make it 5-1.
Cabrera hit his 12th homer of the year in the fourth, but it was another solo shot. Jason Kipnis hit an RBI single in the fifth for the Indians, and Damon drove home two more runs later that inning with a bases-loaded single that made it 8-2 and chased Scherzer.
"What happened in the first inning wasn't the reason why we lost the game," Scherzer said. "Me not being able to execute pitches in the fifth inning was the reason this game got out of hand. They did a nice job of taking some pitches away and doing damage against me."
Damon also walked twice.
Detroit scored four runs in the fifth, including RBI doubles by Quintin Berry and Cabrera, and a run-scoring single by Fielder. The Cleveland bullpen retired the first 10 Tigers it faced and Perez finished the job.
Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI single in the sixth made it 9-6.
"We had some good at-bats, we played hard and we battled. We did not play a bad game tonight," Leyland said. "We just didn't pitch. That's the symptom of a struggling team. When you score six runs, the other team scores eight or nine. When you hold them to three, you only get two."
NOTES: Berry, Detroit's center fielder, made a superb diving catch of Brantley's drive in the ninth. ... Santana caught for the first time since returning from a concussion-related DL stint. ... Fielder extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... The Indians optioned C Luke Carlin to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Damon. ... Detroit C Bryan Holaday singled in the fifth for his first major league hit. ... Cleveland will try for a three-game sweep Thursday, sending RHP Derek Lowe (7-3) to the mound against LHP Casey Crosby (0-1).