Ignited by the first back-to-back homers this year from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers took a six-run lead by the fourth inning Saturday. Thus it might appear that Anibal Sanchez cruised to the 9-4 win he posted over the Indians in his return to the Tigers’ rotation.

But Sanchez got three outs in a third-inning jam that kept this game, series and for now AL Central race tilted decidedly in the Tigers’ favor. He limited the Indians to one run in what could have been a rally that wiped out the 4-0 lead they had just built in the top of the third.

“That was huge,” manager Jim Leyland said.

When the Tigers added three runs in the fourth, they had a 7-1 lead and were on the way to their fifth straight victory. In this win streak, the Tigers have outscored the opposition, 40-13.

In the first two games of this four-game series, the Tigers have outscored the Indians, 16-4, to raise their Central lead on the Tribe to 3½ games.

Sanchez made his first start in three weeks after being sidelined with a strained right shoulder. He didn’t allow a hit in the first two innings.

In the third, Cabrera broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer to left-center off right-hander Carlos Carrasco, and two pitches later Fielder launched a high-arc drive into the seats in right. Victor Martinez followed with a double and scored on Jhonny Peralta’s single.

Sanchez gave up singles to the first three batters in the bottom of the inning. Then Drew Stubbs stole third, and so it was first and third, none out, with the potential tying run at the plate with the heart of the order up.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a fly to shallow right. Torii Hunter charged in for the catch, and Stubbs had to hold at third. Jason Kipnis, the hottest Indian, grounded right to Fielder at first, and Stubbs had to hold again. Sanchez struck out Nick Swisher swinging on a full-count 90-mile-per-hour pitch, and there it was for the first time in a while: the Sanchez fist pump as he celebrated a big third out.