CLEVELAND -- Edwin Jackson wouldn't allow the AL Central to get any tighter. Now is definitely not the time.
Detroit's steady starter pitched seven shutout innings and remained unbeaten against Cleveland this season, and the first-place Tigers kept their slender lead over Minnesota with a 3-1 win over the staggering Indians, who dropped their ninth straight on Tuesday night.
"Edwin was just what the doctor ordered," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We needed a big outing from him and we got it."
In losing nine of 13, the Tigers had let a season-high, seven-game lead on Sept. 6 slip to two over the Twins last weekend. But thanks to Jackson, Detroit won its second straight and stayed 2½ games ahead of Minnesota, which beat the Chicago White Sox 8-6.
Jackson knows that with the season winding down, the onus is on the starters to come through.
"It's imperative right now," the right-hander said. "Every start we make is going to be a clutch start. Right now you have to leave it all on the field. It's that time of the year where every game is not necessarily a must win, but it's important to get as many as we can."
Jackson (13-7) improved to 4-0 in five starts against Cleveland. He gave up seven hits and got out of jams in the fifth and sixth with inning-ending double plays. Jackson also got a big assist from Raburn, who gunned down Matt LaPorta at home to end the second. Raburn has eight assists in 79 games in the outfield.
Jackson hasn't gotten much run support all season and the Tigers weren't able to do much with Laffey, who allowed one run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings but lost his fourth straight start. It was the 16th time in 31 starts that Jackson has gone at least seven innings.
The Indians closed within 3-1 in the eighth off Detroit relievers Bobby Seay and Brandon Lyon, who gave up a bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll before striking out Luis Valbuena to crush the threat. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 35 tries.
Leading 1-0 on Raburn's homer, Detroit tacked on two big runs in the eighth. After Chris Perez walked two to open the inning, Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI double and Marcus Thames delivered a sacrifice fly.
The Indians fell to 3-17 in September.
"It's not like we're trying to lose," Laffey said. "And it doesn't matter, at least to me, who we are playing. You have to give 100 percent focus on every pitch. No matter who you face, you want to win."
Cleveland opened its final homestand amid uncertainty about manager Eric Wedge's job for next season.
Owners Paul and Larry Dolan and general manager Mark Shapiro are reviewing all aspects of the organization, including Wedge. They are expected to announce a decision on Wedge, who is signed through next season, around the Oct. 4 season finale.
"Nobody likes to lose," Indians DH Travis Hafner said. "We came in with high expectations and it hasn't happened for us."
Wedge has led the Indians to the postseason just once in his seven seasons, but has earned respect from his peers.
"He was a pretty smart manager when they won the division two years ago," Leyland said. "He's no different now. You talk about managers, we're pretty much all the same. When we have good players we usually do all right. There are no tricks. You get good players and you win, everything is OK.
"You don't win and you usually go."
Raburn has three homers in his last six games. ... Indians 2B Valbuena started a gorgeous double play in the second with a diving stop before flipping the ball with his glove backhanded to second for the forceout. ... Tigers OF Magglio Ordonez went 3-for-3 and is batting 417 (25-for-60) in 18 games this month. ... When they hit the road for the final time this season next week, the Indians will be lugging an 11-game losing streak outside Cleveland. ... Detroit is 12-4 vs. Cleveland. ... LaPorta was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth with inflammation in his left hip. He hurt it while running home on the play where he was thrown out.