The first two calls came on potential groundball double plays in which the Tigers retired the runner at second. The first seemed set up for two outs, but Indians center fielder Michael Brantley's dash down the line got him to the bag just as second baseman Omar Infante's throw was arriving.
Replays suggested Brantley's foot hit the bag at the same time that first baseman Prince Fielder caught Infante's throw. Fielder's stunned reaction at first-base umpire Brian Knight's safe call brought Leyland out from the dugout.
Leyland became more animated as the argument went on, and seemingly was on his way to an ejection. He eventually gave up the argument, but turned around and shouted twice at Knight on his way back into the dugout.
Two batters and a Russ Canzler game-tying single later, pitcher Rick Porcello snared a Lonnie Chisenhall comebacker to start a potential inning-ending double play. Again, they retired the runner at second, but Chisenhall's foot hit the bag around the same time Fielder dug out shortstop Jhonny Peralta's throw from the dirt.
The safe call allowed Brantley to score, giving Cleveland a 4-3 lead.
Fielder's reaction was stronger this time, but it didn't matter, because Leyland sped out of the dugout to protest almost immediately. Knight, in turn, didn't wait long before issuing Leyland his fifth ejection of the season.
"Obviously, I thought they were out," Leyland said. "The umpire saw it differently. That's the way it goes. I have no problem with that. He saw it one way. I saw it another way."
Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera -- who might have been even more frustrated than Fielder -- had an argument near the mound with second base umpire Wally Bell, who held him back from joining the argument at first. Fielder did his part to keep his fellow All-Star slugger in the game.
Porcello, who left the game that inning, understood the emotion.
"It's frustrating, especially at this time of year," Porcello said. "These are high-intensity games as far as how much they mean. We're right there in this race. Instinctively, you want every call to go your way. That's never the case, but sometimes it's hard to keep your emotions in check when stuff doesn't go your way. But without a doubt, it's part of the game, and you have to deal with it and continue to push on and do whatever you can to keep battling and get things to go your way.
"You can say bad luck or whatever you want, but good players go out there and find ways to succeed."
The third close play came an inning later, and the argument that ensued led to another run, when Carlos Santana took advantage of a high throw to first from Cabrera for an infield single. Fielder jumped off the bag to snare Cabrera's throw and seemingly tagged Santana on his back, but Knight ruled that Santana hit the bag before Fielder's tag hit him.
While Fielder whirled and protested, Asdrubal Cabrera kept running around third and scored to make it a 5-3 Indians lead.
"I thought Prince definitely tagged the guy on the back," Leyland said. "But I'm certainly not blaming the umpires. He had three real tough situations, four counting the [Asdrubal] Cabrera foul ball at the end. He had some bang-bang plays today, gave us a great effort. I didn't agree with some of the decisions, obviously, but that's part of it."
Fielder did not comment after the game.