CLEVELAND — Jason Kipnis left his flesh and blood on home plate as he scored the go-ahead run against the Tigers.
The Cleveland Indians, with Kipnis diving across the dirt to score on a throwing error by Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder in the eighth inning, scraped out a 4-2 win Wednesday night.
Kipnis had three hits, rubbed his right arm raw as he broke a 2-2 tie, and said the Indians couldn’t help but feel the emotion of a second straight win over the defending AL Central champions to guarantee winning the three-game series.
“There’s lots of games left, but you feel it,” Kipnis said, his arm scratched and bleeding.
“We’re playing the team that caught us and dominated the division the last half of last year.”
The Tigers won the last 10 meetings with Cleveland a year ago and looked like they were going to break open the tie in the top of the eighth when they loaded the bases with none out.
Vinnie Pestano (2-0) made sure they didn’t.
He struck out Jhonny Peralta, got Ramon Santiago on a weak grounder that forced a runner at home, and fired a called third strike past pinch-hitter Alex Avila on a 3-2 count.
“I’ve been in that situation before and the thing to do is not curl up,” Pestano said. “When your back is against the wall, there is only one way to go.”
The right-hander extended his team relief record to 23 straight outings with at least one strikeout.
With two outs in the seventh, Cleveland’s Joe Smith got the dangerous Miguel Cabrera to ground out with the bags jammed.
“Without those guys (the bullpen), life would be very tough for us,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “That was a real team effort.”
Kipnis singled off the glove of Phil Coke (1-1) with one out to start the winning rally and took third on a double into the left-field corner by Asdrubal Cabrera.
Travis Hafner then grounded to Fielder, whose low throw handcuffed Avila at the plate and allowed Kipnis to score. Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly scored Cabrera.
“It clearly was inaccurate,” Fielder said. “It didn’t hit him in the glove. If I made the play it would have been easy, but I didn’t.”
Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th consecutive save after blowing a lead in the season opener April 5.
Critical of Cleveland fans last weekend for booing him and giving Cleveland the majors’ lowest attendance, Perez praised them for giving Pestano a standing ovation.
“That was great, just great,” Perez said. “It may have been the loudest I’ve heard them. It may have given the offense a lift. It may have been coincidence, but I don’t think so.”
The Tigers were emotionally drained after stranding 10 on base and going 2 of 12 with runners in scoring position.
“You can get runners out there, but you have to get them in,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s pretty simple. There’s no rocket science in this one.”
Hafner’s two-run homer in the sixth off Tigers starter Doug Fister tied it at 2.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the sixth off Indians starter Zach McAllister when the ball bounced their way.
Quintin Berry, called up from Triple-A Toledo and making his big-league debut at age 27, got his first career hit on a bunt between first and second. Second baseman Kipnis wasn’t going to get the speedy Berry on the tough play, but when the ball rolled past him, Berry hustled to second for a double.
Andy Dirks followed with a line drive directly at right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who broke in, then saw it go over his head for an RBI double. Dirks took third on Cabrera’s flyout to right — then scored on a close play at home to make it 2-0.
With the infield in, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera dove to stop Fielder’s hard grounder and threw home from his knees. Dirks, running on contact, slid in as catcher Santana took the throw in the dirt and applied a late tag.
McAllister gave up two runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings.
Fister gave up five hits and two runs over 6 2-3 innings. The Tigers have scored nine runs in his five starts.
His last win was over Cleveland on Sept. 26, completing a sensational stretch for the right-hander. He went 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his last eight starts of 2011 to help the Tigers win the AL Central.
NOTES: Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon was ejected by plate umpire Jerry Meals for yelling from the dugout in the bottom of the seventh. … Indians 3B Jack Hannahan was available to play for the first time since May 13, but missed his ninth straight game. He said he’s nearly recovered from a sore back. … Indians RHP Josh Tomlin, on the disabled list with wrist tendinitis since May 8, is scheduled to threw a 50-pitch bullpen session Thursday. … Barry started in center as Austin Jackson missed his sixth game with an abdominal strain. Leyland said he’s concerned that Jackson, batting .331 with 29 runs in 36 games, could end up on the disabled list. … Hafner fouled a ball off his foot early and limped around in succeeding at-bats. He was replaced for a pinch runner in the eighth.