Alex Avila’s three-run homer in the ninth inning off closer Chris Perez rallied Detroit past the Indians in Cleveland, 4-2, on Monday night, giving the Tigers their ninth straight win.
The Tigers were three outs away from having their lead in the AL Central cut to two games before their comeback against Perez (4-2), who had converted 11 consecutive save opportunities.
‘‘It was a terrific game,’’ Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ‘‘We were fortunate enough to get [to] a good closer. You don’t get him very often, but tonight we did.’’
After Victor Martinez’s RBI single made it 2-1, Perez walked Andy Dirks before Avila drove a 1-and-0 pitch over the wall in left-center for his ninth homer, stunning a Cleveland crowd ready to celebrate the team’s biggest win this season.
Al Alburquerque (2-2) got one in the eighth and Joaquin Benoit worked the ninth for his 13th save.
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez struck out 11 in 7⅔ innings, and was in line to take a tough loss before the Tigers stormed back for their 13th win in 14 games.
Cleveland’s Corey Kluber had blanked Detroit’s big bats for 7⅓ innings and set the tone in a crucial four-game series before the Indians’ problematic bullpen blew it.
The Tigers’ rally started innocently enough with Prince Fielder blooping a double into the left-field corner. Martinez followed with a single, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 2-1.
Pinch runner Hernan Perez came in for Martinez and Perez walked Dirks, setting the stage for Avila’s big swing.
‘‘We gotta win those games,’’ Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said. ‘‘That’s how I see it. That’s a tough team over there, granted. But that’s a swing game. That’s the top of the division. If we want to be at the top, we’ve got to be able to knock them out.’’
Braves 3, Nationals 2 — Justin Upton led off the eighth inning with a tiebreaking homer, and NL East-leading Atlanta extended its winning streak to a season-high 11 games by beating host Washington.
Freddie Freeman drove in Atlanta’s first two runs with singles in the third and fifth. Reliever David Carpenter (3-0) earned the win by retiring all five batters he faced.
Upton’s 20th homer came on a 3-and-2 pitch from Tyler Clippard (6-2), who replaced Stephen Strasburg to begin the eighth.
The Nationals again failed to provide much run support for Strasburg, who struck out nine in seven innings, allowing two runs and five hits. The last five times he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer, Washington lost.
The Braves pushed their division lead to 13½ games over the second-place Nationals, who led the majors with 98 wins in 2012 but now are four games under .500.
Mike Minor went six-plus innings, giving up eight hits and three walks, yet allowing only two runs. With Braves closer Craig Kimbrel getting a night off after pitching in the previous three games, Jordan Walden earned his first save of the season.
Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2 — Zack Greinke pitched into the seventh inning and raised his batting average to .405 with an RBI single, helping Los Angeles beat St. Louis to earn its 15th straight win on the road.
Nick Punto was productive subbing for injured shortstop Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers got an RBI apiece from Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis while matching the Cincinnati Reds’ 15-game run in 1957. They’re two wins shy of the NL record set by the 1916 New York Giants.
Greinke (9-3) allowed two runs in 6⅓ innings for his 100th career victory, allowing two hits in the third, fourth, and fifth innings but no runs. Paco Rodriguez earned his second career save with a perfect ninth.
Punto doubled with two outs in the seventh ahead of Greinke’s single that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Punto’s relay to the plate preserved a one-run lead in the fifth and denied David Freese of an RBI double, and the shortstop made nice defensive plays to end the seventh and eighth.
Adam Wainwright (13-7) gave up three runs in seven innings as he failed in his third try at his 14th win. Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig had an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who have lost nine of 12 overall.
Royals 13, Twins 0 — Jeremy Guthrie pitched a four-hitter and Eric Hosmer drove in a career-high five runs to help host Kansas City rout Minnesota.
The Royals, who have won 12 of their past 13 games, scored a season high for runs.
Guthrie (12-7) won his fourth straight start to log his 12th victory, which is a career high. It was his second career shutout and he lowered his earned run average to 3.94.
Kevin Correia (7-8) was pulled after two innings and 16 batters faced, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks. It got so bad that infielder Jamey Carroll pitched the eighth for the Twins, his first career big league outing on the mound. He retired the Royals in order.
The Royals sent 11 men to the plate in a six-run second inning, which was highlighted by Mike Moustakas and Hosmer stroking two-run singles. Moustakas collected two hits in the inning.
Rangers 5, Angels 2 — Adrian Beltre homered, Martin Perez pitched into the seventh inning, and visiting Texas beat Los Angeles.
Jurickson Profar had a run-scoring hit for Texas, which has won seven of eight to move within two games of AL West leader Oakland. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 33d save.
Blue Jays 3, Mariners 1 — Mark DeRosa’s pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth inning gave Toronto and R.A. Dickey a victory in Seattle.
Dickey (9-11) went 7⅔ innings, allowing one run on eight hits. The knuckleballer struck out five and walked two to earn his first win since July 1. Casey Janssen worked the ninth for his 20th save in 22 opportunities.
Giants 4, Brewers 2 — Pinch hitter Jeff Francoeur’s broken-bat single in the bottom of the eighth inning drove in the go-ahead run in San Francisco’s victory over Milwaukee.
Brandon Belt had three hits for the Giants, who won for the fourth time in six games. Juan Francisco hit a home run and drove in two for the Brewers, who have lost four of five.