DETROIT — Nick Swisher stepped to the plate as the tying run in the ninth inning and grounded out weakly.
That was the end of a rough game for Cleveland's first baseman.
Swisher went 0 for 4 and made two errors — which led to three unearned runs by Detroit — and the Indians lost to the Tigers 7-5 on Friday night. Detroit now leads Cleveland by 3½ games atop the AL Central.
"I'm just a little off," said Swisher, who is hitless in his last 20 at-bats. "I'm missing pitches that I should drive."
Victor Martinez homered and had three hits for the Tigers, and Torii Hunter added three hits of his own in the opener of this three-game series. Detroit led 5-0 before Cleveland scored three runs in the fifth off Justin Verlander.
That was all the Indians could manage against the Tigers' ace in losing their fifth straight game. Verlander (8-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out six.
"He can multiply the pitches he already has, because he can change speeds and move them around," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "That gives him an awful lot of weapons. We made him work hard, and we got something for it in the fifth, but we just couldn't cash in as much as we needed."
Detroit's Jose Valverde came on with a four-run lead in the ninth. He allowed solo homers to Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs but held on. Swisher grounded out with a man on second to end it.
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) allowed five runs — three earned — in three-plus innings.
Cleveland lost its ninth straight road game.
Detroit is trying for its third straight division title, and the Indians have emerged as the top early threat from the rest of the AL Central. Jimenez beat Verlander in Detroit on May 11, and Cleveland took two of three in that series.
But the Tigers swept a two-game series in Cleveland later that month, the start of a stretch in which the Indians have lost 13 of 17.
Martinez opened the scoring in the second with a solo homer to right, his fifth of the year. Detroit then managed two more runs without hitting the ball out of the infield.
Jhonny Peralta walked and Brayan Pena grounded into a force play. Then Ramon Santiago hit a groundball to first, and Swisher tried to make a tough throw to second to get the lead runner. The ball got away for an error on Swisher, and Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases.
"I got greedy," Swisher said. "I thought we could get the double play, but I should have taken the out at first."
After Andy Dirks struck out, Hunter hit an RBI single, and Miguel Cabrera walked to force in another run.
"I felt great in the first inning, but it was gone in the second inning and I started trying to do too much to get someone out," Jimenez said. "It went the other way in a hurry."
Garcia doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on a single by Dirks. Hunter singled to chase Jimenez, and Cabrera bounced into a double play, bringing another run home to make it 5-0.
Verlander hasn't allowed fewer than three runs in any of his last six starts, but the damage was limited to the fifth inning Friday. Michael Bourn hit an RBI single, and Jason Kipnis drove in two more runs with a bases-loaded double that Hunter was unable to catch against the wall in right.
"Our guys gave me a cushion," Verlander said. "There was that one inning where things didn't really go our way. A couple soft hits that found their way in. But the positive is, you're able to limit the damage, keep us in the lead."
Cleveland, which is without shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (right quad strain), could get no closer. Swisher made another error in the fifth, which put men on first and third with nobody out. A double play grounder by Pena made it 6-3.
Pena added an RBI single in the seventh.
NOTES: Jimenez allowed seven hits and three walks. He struck out three. ... Detroit's Prince Fielder had his hitting streak snapped at 11 games. ... Hunter was hitless in his last 14 at-bats before starting Friday's game with a double and two singles. ... Cleveland's Justin Masterson (8-4) takes on Detroit's Rick Porcello (2-3) on Saturday.