DETROIT -- The Tigers went from a seven-run lead to milking their bullpen in less than one inning. The game ended with the biggest throw coming from center fielder Austin Jackson, who nailed Kosuke Fukudome at home plate for a game-ending double play, as the Tigers held on for a wild 8-7 win over the Indians and a series sweep.
The win puts the Tigers (68-58) at season highs of 10 games over .500 and 4 1/2-games ahead in the American League Central standings.
"I just threw it," Jackson said. "It was one of those situations where you've just got to let it all hang out right there."
With the Tigers holding onto a one-run lead and having already used six pitchers, closer Jose Valverde took the mound looking to remain perfect in 37 save opportunities. But Valverde walked Fukudome and hit Jason Donald to start the ninth. Jack Hannahan sacrificed the runners over to bring up pinch-hitter Matt LaPorta.
LaPorta hit a high fly to shallow center field, allowing Jackson to get under the ball and throw it home with as much force as he could. The strike to catcher Alex Avila was perfect, as Avila took the hit and held onto the ball and the win.
"On that play right there, I've had that play a couple times this year and I didn't get it all the way in the air," Jackson said. "But on that one, I was able to get some air on it."
It only took one inning for the Tigers to make a statement against Trade Deadline acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez -- scoring as many earned runs off him as he had given up in any game in his career. The Tigers plated seven in the bottom of the third with Ramon Santiago and Jackson each scoring one with singles and Delmon Young and Victor Martinez hitting three-run and two-run home runs, respectively, in the inning.
But the Indians answered right back with five runs in the top of the fourth, chasing Tigers starter Rick Porcello. Carlos Santana hit a solo home run and the Indians recorded four straight hits off Porcello, scoring three more runs and ending his day. A wild pitch from reliever Duane Below gave Porcello a fifth earned run over 3 2/3 innings, the third consecutive subpar outing for Porcello.
"We were trying to milk as many outs as we could, but that's one that Rick's got to nail down," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's got to at least give us six innings in that game."
In his previous start, Porcello began strong before losing control and giving up runs. The same thing happened on Sunday. Leyland said Porcello went away from throwing his sinker, instead going with the slider, and that was a mistake. Only eight of Porcello's 16 sliders were thrown for strikes.
"Looking back, some of those sliders turned out to be pretty dumb pitches, especially to those right-handed hitters," Porcello said. "I was eating up those guys with my sinker and then I throw them sliders and they get a couple hits, line drives to right field. I've got to go with my best stuff there and that's obviously my sinker."
The combination of Detroit's third inning and Cleveland's fourth included 22 hitters, 12 runs, 12 hits, three homers and 85 pitches.
Both teams summoned their bullpens earlier than expected. Jimenez's day ended after a fourth-inning single from Young scored Jackson.
The Indians scored runs in the fifth and the sixth to cut the deficit to one. The Tigers were close to losing the lead, and then they lost their manager when Leyland was thrown out in the sixth.
Leyland was tossed by third-base umpire Alan Porter after Porter ruled Wilson Betemit was out on a fielder's choice at third base. The call visibly upset third-base coach Gene Lamont and prompted Leyland to charge out of the dugout.
But the Tigers' bullpen was able to hold on -- barely. A combination of six pitchers yielded six hits and five walks, which led to only two runs. The Indians left 11 runners on base in the game and went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"We were still a little shaky coming out," Leyland said. "We had to get some more important outs than we got, and we didn't get them. But we hung in there enough. We kept trying to milk outs and almost ran out of milk."
It was the second time in just over a week that both teams had to turn to their bullpens early -- the other being a 14-inning game that saw a third-inning rain delay, which washed out the starters on Aug. 9.
Cleveland's bullpen combined for 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up just two hits and keeping the Indians in the game.
"I'm proud of the way these guys turned around and made this a ballgame after it looked like it was going to be a laugher," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I can't say enough about our bullpen. Ubaldo had a bad day. He just couldn't make any pitches."
Valverde always vibrantly celebrates his saves, but this one may have been the biggest celebration of all -- and it came in the unusual spot behind home plate -- as the Tigers opened up their biggest division lead of the season with the biggest save of the season.
"Today and the other saves, it's the same," Valverde said. "It was tough today. You don't want to do what I did today: hit a guy and walk. It's tough. We were able to get this one, sweep Cleveland and go to Tampa now."
Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.