Smelly and sleep-deprived, the Detroit Tigers staggered into Progressive Field some two hours and 40 minutes before Monday’s first pitch with groggy players either still dressed in their pajamas or part of a fashion experiment gone wrong.
After the Tigers swept the Boston Red Sox late Sunday night to record their sixth consecutive win, the team endured plane delays and hotel issues that resulted in no luggage and a long travel day that may have left the best team in the major leagues vulnerable.
The Indians parlayed the advantage into an extra-inning walk off victory, using a Michael Brantley home run in the bottom of the 10th inning against Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque to claim a 5-4 win.
“The way it ended was great,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Brantley’s been so big for us…It seemed like tonight we didn’t let our frustration get the best of us. We kept at them and finally cashed in a little bit.”
With two outs and having worked a full count, Brantley’s ninth home run of the season took it’s time getting out, finally just clearing the right field corner wall as Brantley carried his bat with him half way up the first base line.
“I just hit a line drive,” he said. “I was kinda nervous at the same - trying to run, didn’t know what to do. I was fortunate enough the ball goes out. Then after that you don’t remember too much until you get to your teammates and they start beating on you.”
The Tribe was in position to clinch the win an inning earlier, but Tigers pinch hitter J.D. Martinezpicked an opportune time to hit his first home run of the season – hitting a solo shot to center field against reliever Cody Allen that knotted the game 4-4.
“He comes off the bench cold and gets a 96-mph fastball up and out over the plate and didn’t miss it,” Allen said. “That’s good baseball right there. You tip your cap to him. It wasn’t the best pitch in the world, but it wasn’t a terrible pitch, either.”
But the Indians (20-25) had one more rally in store, halting their four-game losing streak while snapping the Tigers (27-13) six-game winning streak to shrink Detroit’s lead in the American League Central Division to under double digits at 9 ½ games.
The Indians scored first and rebounded twice in the second and seventh innings when the Tigers pulled even, getting early help from two struggling hitters in Nick Swisher and Ryan Raburn with a hand from rookie Jesus Aguilar.
The Indians took advantage of Detroit starter Drew Smyly’s command issues from the start, loading the bases in the first and fourth innings. But they came away with only one run – Asdrubal Cabrera scoring on a wild pitch in the first.