DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson threw out a Cleveland baserunner at home plate for the dramatic final out as the Tigers escaped with an 8-7 win over the Indians Sunday, to complete a three-game sweep over their division rival.
Cleveland trailed by a run in the ninth with runners on second and third when Matt LaPorta flied out to center field. Kosuke Fukudome tried to score from third to attempt the sacrifice fly but Jackson whipped his throw to catcher Alex Avila who made the game-ending tag.
"It was one of those situations where you've just got to let it all hang out right there. I just threw it," Jackson told reporters. "I've had that play a couple times this year and I didn't get it all the way in the air. But on that one, I was able to get some air on it."
Detroit had their early 7-0 lead trimmed down to an 8-7 advantage by the sixth inning, but the Tigers (68-58) held on for a third consecutive win over Cleveland (62-61) to take a 4- game lead over the Indians in the American League Central.
The Tigers pounded the Indians during a seven-run third inning, led by Delmon Young who smashed a three-run homer and finished with four RBIs.
The Indians, however, quickly answered with five runs in the top of the fourth, then added one run each in the fifth and sixth innings.
The Tigers bullpen survived the wild final innings to preserve the victory. Phil Coke pitched a scoreless seventh inning to earn the win while Detroit closer Jose Valverde got his 37th save of the season.
"We hung in there enough," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was ejected in the sixth for arguing a play at third base. "We kept trying to milk outs and almost ran out of milk."
Neither team's starting pitchers performed, with Detroit's Rick Porcello giving up five runs in 3-2/3 innings while Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez gave up eight runs in 3-1/3 innings.
Cleveland had been trailing the Tigers by just 1- games before the series began.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury