DETROIT -- Alex Avila's groundball rolled between first and second, and for a moment it looked as if his nightmarish day might have a happier finish.
"I was running like heck with my head down so I couldn't really tell," Avila said. "When I looked up, going at the bag, I saw Pestano covering and he made a good play."
Avila's groundout ended Detroit's 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians and knocked the Tigers a half-game back of Chicago in the AL Central. The White Sox were playing later Monday.
"It's nice to get the first one out of the way," Kluber said. "Took a little while -- longer than I would have liked -- but yeah, it's a great feeling."
Detroit entered the day tied for first in the AL Central. The game was tied at 2 in the seventh when reliever Darin Downs (1-1) allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. Cabrera then lifted a fly to centre off Brayan Villarreal.
The 26-year-old Kluber (1-3) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in his seventh career start. He struck out four and walked one.
Pestano allowed two baserunners in the ninth but escaped for his second save. Prince Fielder doubled but was unable to move to third on Delmon Young's tapper. Brennan Boesch was hit by a pitch, but he and Fielder were stranded when Jhonny Peralta struck out and Avila hit his grounder that nearly made it through but was foiled by Kipnis and Pestano.
"That's one that people think gets monotonous in spring training because you work on that every single day," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "But it takes repetition to get it done right, and Jason Kipnis deserves a lot of credit. That was a tremendous play."
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez allowed two unearned runs in six innings.
The Tigers were coming off a three-game sweep of Chicago that pulled them even with the White Sox atop the division. They were sloppy early on in this one, allowing unearned runs in the first and third. Avila's two-out passed ball allowed Cleveland to open the scoring, and a throwing error by Avila put a man on third two innings later.
Detroit brought the infield in, and Cabrera singled up the middle.
The Tigers scored in the first on a single by Young and in the fourth on a single by Peralta. With men on first and second and nobody out in the fourth, Avila hit into a double play, enabling Kluber to limit the damage.
"He's struggling. That's putting it mildly," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's hitting extra. ... Had extra hitting yesterday and got some more swings to try and get things worked out."
Kluber pitched briefly for the Indians last year and was knocked around in his first three starts of 2012. But in his last four, he's allowed six earned runs in 22 innings, striking out 19 and walking six.
Cody Allen pitched the seventh for Cleveland, and Esmil Rogers worked the eighth. Detroit's Andy Dirks hit a deep fly to centre in the eighth that was caught, and third baseman Brent Lillibridge made a diving stop on Miguel Cabrera's grounder.
NOTES: Downs had pitched only 15 2-3 innings in his career before this game, although he came in with a 1.72 ERA. ... Detroit RHP Rick Porcello (9-10) faces Cleveland RHP Justin Masterson (10-12) on Tuesday night.