DETROIT -- The home runs were no-doubters. So was the game they turned, or so it seemed a couple hours earlier.Saturday's game-tying two-run homer from Ryan Raburn and walk-off shot from Miguel Cabrera two batters later traveled an estimated 824 feet. The resulting 9-8 Tigers win over the White Sox opened up a 7 1/2-game cushion between them in the American League Central standings, and pushed Detroit 6 1/2 games ahead of second-place Cleveland, who lost to the Royals. The Tigers' largest comeback in three years, and the sudden fashion in which it finished, might go miles with this team.
Detroit faced a seven-run deficit and had a defense withering in 93-degree weather at the game's midway point. Eight runs, a downpour and three homers later, they had another confidence boost.
"As far as the feeling for me, that's probably one of the biggest wins we've had in a long time," said Raburn, whose 12th home run was possibly the biggest of his career.
"As far as game-wise, Game 163 [in 2009] was probably the best game I've been involved in. Tonight was ... I mean, the feeling was awesome, just the way the game played out. From being down 8-1 to being able to come back and walk it off like that, it was just unbelievable."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sounded semi-surprised.
"That's the type of ballclub that they are right now, playing very well," he said. "You can't take anything for granted. Those guys are professional hitters out there. They showed today how good they are."
It was even a little hard to fathom for a manager who has been in baseball for nearly 40 years.
"When we leave here, it doesn't mean anything anymore," Jim Leyland tried to caution reporters. "We have to get ready to play [Sunday]. But it was a heckuva win, a dramatic win.
"I don't know that I've been involved with many, if any, exactly like that. Boom, a two-run homer to tie it. Boom, a home run to win it. I'm not sure I've ever been involved in one exactly like that."
It wasn't just the statistics, but the feeling involved. When Alexei Ramirez's three-run homer in the fourth inning put the White Sox in command, the Tigers were dragging. The unseasonably hot weather and the deliberate pace while starter Brad Penny searched for his pitch contributed to it. Once Alejandro De Aza and Brent Morel hit back-to-back homers in the fifth, with Penny one strike away from retiring the side, the boos came down from a sellout crowd of 40,635.
It looked more like a game to get out of the sun and look ahead to Sunday night, not like a setup.
"That inning was tough," Cabrera said, "but we didn't lay down and wait to lose."
Part of that, Cabrera said, came from Leyland."He always pushes us to play hard," Cabrera said. "He always pushes every inning. He always pushes the offense to get it going, every inning. He was like clapping, saying 'Let's go, one run at a time. If we can do that every inning, we have a chance to tie it.'"
That's pretty much how it came together, with one final burst in the ninth.
The sight of Tigers defenders waiting for a ball in play in the fourth contrasted with the speed from Austin Jackson an inning later, legging out an RBI triple before Delmon Young's home run made it 8-4.
By the time Raburn entered the game in the seventh, pinch-hitting for Andy Dirks, the potential tying run was on deck following a Wilson Betemit homer and a Jackson single. He struck out on a 95-mph fastball, the same pitch Jesse Crain used to fan Young, but it only stopped the damage.
Meanwhile, the barrage of White Sox hits that pummeled Penny had gone quiet. David Pauley, who went 10 days unused in Detroit's bullpen last month, tossed three scoreless innings. Once Luis Marte retired Chicago in the ninth, Detroit retired Chicago's final 11 batters in order.
Marte (1-0) was set up for his first Major League win if the Tigers could somehow come back on Santos. But once he struck out Betemit to lead off the ninth, he seemed primed to protect an 8-6 lead.
Then came Jackson, who turned a liner into the left-field corner into his AL-leading 11th triple.
"With Jackson on third, the most I was actually trying to do was just get him in," Raburn said. "I definitely wasn't trying to hit a home run, that's for sure."
Santos was trying for the strikeout when he went to the 1-2 slider. He said later he tried to put it in the dirt. If he had, Raburn said, "I'm probably swinging and striking out."
Santos got it up. Raburn got it out, 424 feet down the line in left.
"I just lucked out, Raburn shrugged. "That guy's got great stuff. I'd seen him quite a few times. I was just able to get the barrel on the bat and the good lord helped me out there."
Santos got Young to chase the slider, striking him out on three pitches. That left Cabrera, whom he had struck out twice to close out White Sox wins earlier this summer.
"I wanted to get a first-pitch slider over, and he hit it out," Santos said.
Cabrera didn't say he was waiting for that pitch. But his words sounded like he wasn't going to wait for Santos to get ahead.
"You have to be ready for a pitcher like that," Cabrera said. "He's one of the best closers in the game. He can throw it hard. He can throw a slider. You have to be ready for a strike."I was looking for a good pitch to hit. I was focused on trying to hit it hard, trying to make something happen."
What happened was the Tigers' biggest comeback since July 30, 2008, the day they traded Ivan Rodriguez and beat the Indians.
"Heckuva win," Leyland repeated.