Dave Burba's face was as red as Chief Wahoo's.
After watching Bill Haselman's lazy fly ball somehow fall in for a single in the seventh inning, Burba stood behind the pitcher's mound and fumed.
"I was mad," he said. "Not at the guys for not catching it, but because that's the kind of thing that's been happening to us. Naturally, it upset me."
Jim Thome drove in three runs and Burba (8-6) won for the first time since June 19 as Cleveland returned home from a rough weekend in New York to win for just the third time in 12 games since the All-Star break.
"Sometimes you've got to grind it out, and that's what we did tonight," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said.
Yet despite their recent tailspin -- now 13-19 since June 22 -- the Indians pushed their lead in the AL Central up to 12 games, and with the win improved to 24-11 against division foes.
Before the game, the Indians held a 10-minute, players-only meeting o talk about their problems.
"We got to express ourselves," said Vizquel. "It's always a good thing to talk things out when you're struggling a little bit."
Although they stopped their slide, the Indians can't seem to keep everyone healthy.
They got a scare in the third inning when Manny Ramirez, the majors' RBI leader with 102, was forced to leave the game with a bruised left knee after being hit by a pitch from Justin Thompson (9-9). Ramirez is day-to-day.
Ramirez, who has been hit six times this season, was drilled with a full-count pitch to load the bases. After taking a few steps toward first, he doubled over in pain and left the game shortly thereafter. Richie Sexson followed with a fielder's choice grounder to put the Indians ahead 3-2.
Hargrove didn't accuse Thompson of throwing at Ramirez, but said he knows some teams have, while others have been trying to pitch the slugger tight all year.
"They're looking for a way to get Manny out," he said. "People want to see if he's got a hole in there. Guess what? I don't think he has one."
Thome followed Sexson's RBI with a a two-run double to chase Thompson, who lasted a season-low 2.1 innings.
Afterward, the left-hander said he was bothered by soreness in his shoulder from the time he began warming up.
"It's my arm, so I'm concerned," he said. "It wasn't pain. I've had pain. It was something different. If you ever pitched, you know the soreness I mean."
Burba had gone six starts without a win, and received a no-decision in his last outing despite striking out a career-high 13. The right-hander allowed three runs and nine hits in 6.2 innings, walked none and struck out six.
"My heart stopped a little bit," Burba said.
Polonia followed with a double, and Burba was coming unglued. Hargrove went to the mound to ease his pitcher and to tell his team to dig down.
"I just tried to settle everyone down," Hargrove said. "When you're going through something like we have, strange things seem to happen."
The Indians caught a break when Cruz followed with a high hopper near third that Enrique Wilson snagged and caught Haselman off the bag.
Held to one run in each of their final two games in New York, the Indians scored twice in the first off Thompson on consecutive RBI singles by Sexson and Thome.
The Tigers tied it in the third on Cruz's run-scoring single and Palmer's RBI double.
- Jacob Cruz made a leaping catch on the warning track in the eighth to take extra bases away from Tony Clark. Cruz appeared to hyperextend his knee but remained in the game.
- Indians outfielder/DH David Justice was fitted with a protective cast on his sprained left wrist. Hargrove said Justice will be back in 2-to-3 days.
- Clark extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games with a sixth-inning single.
- Cleveland activated reliever Steve Karsay from the 15-day disabled list and designated knuckleballer Tom Candiotti for assignment. Karsay, the Indian's most effective pitcher the first three months, had been on the DL since July 2 with a strained left oblique muscle. Candiotti, acquired on June 29, went 1-1 with an 11.05 ERA in seven appearances, two of them starts.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed