DETROIT -- Alex Avila was in the Tigers' dugout for their division tiebreaker in Minnesota in 2009 and was at the heart of their American League Division Series win over the Yankees last year. He couldn't remember a game quite like this.
Miguel Cabrera hit a walk-off homer in his first Major League game and won a World Series with the Marlins at age 20, plus the tiebreaker in 2009. He couldn't remember a game like this.
With a lineup like the Tigers, they were ready for high-scoring affairs and crazy comebacks. But Sunday's 13-12 win over the Red Sox in 11 innings might have been a little beyond even what they envisioned.
"It was one of the craziest games I've ever played," said Avila, whose two-run walk-off homer finally ended it after four hours and 45 minutes of back-and-forth baseball, big innings and a little bit of pitching.
Manager Jim Leyland had games like this in mind when he talked up the importance of the Tigers' long relievers. Still, this wasn't what he bargained for.
"Well, it was obviously wild," Leyland said, "but we didn't pitch very well today at all. Fortunately for us -- I guess -- neither did they."
In a game that demonstrated why Leyland placed so much importance on filling out his bullpen, Detroit saw a four-run first-inning lead, a three-run ninth-inning deficit and a two-run extra-inning deficit erased a few hours apart. Avila's homer provided the last lead the Tigers needed, giving them their second walk-off hit in three games.
"That's a great team, man," Dustin Pedroia, whose RBI single in the 11th gave the Red Sox a two-run lead. "Look at those guys over there. All of them swing the bats great. It's hard to get those last outs."
The Tigers had their share of flaws, from Max Scherzer's third-inning exit with seven runs allowed -- the shortest outing in the big leagues so far this season, tied for the highest run total -- to a pair of pitches that hit ninth batter Kelly Shoppach, to a run-scoring balk and a pitchout that bounced in the dirt.
But Detroit also had Cabrera, whose game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth sent an Easter Sunday crowd of 30,788 into bedlam.
"We don't give up," said Cabrera, who pounced on Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves' first-pitch fastball. "We play hard. We battle to the last out. It was a great game, great win, great comeback."
The Tigers kept battling after RBI singles from Nick Punto and Pedroia made it a 12-10 game for Mark Melancon to try to nail down in the bottom of the 11th.
The Tigers had their flaws, but they had the combination of Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who hit back-to-back singles leading off the inning. After a Delmon Young sacrifice fly for the second out, they had an All-Star catcher exhausted from 11 innings behind the plate and ready to go home.
"I was running on fumes," Avila admitted. "It felt like I caught 350 pitches."
Avila, who actually caught 206 pitches, has always said that he doesn't try to hit home runs, but he admitted that he went for one earlier in the at-bat, hoping to loft a ball into the strong breeze blowing out to left field.
"I tried," Avila said, "but a lot of times, when you try, you don't hit one. And when you don't try, you hit it."
Once Avila swung hard and missed at a high fastball for strike two, he changed his approach. Avila wanted to extend the inning and bring up Jhonny Peralta, whose bases-clearing double in the first inning gave Detroit a 4-0 lead.
Melancon tried to bury a curveball on Avila, and he nearly did, leaving Avila lunging to foul it off. Melancon went back to it, hoping he wouldn't see it coming back.
"He threw me a good curveball and left it up," Avila continued. "If it was down where it was before, I may have swung over the top. He just happened to leave it up. "
Avila didn't get it up into the wind, but he had plenty behind it. The drive to right field bounced off the railing, maybe a foot above the top of the fence.
"When I hit it, I thought maybe it had a chance," Avila said. "But the way the wind was blowing today, I wasn't sure, because the wind was blowing out to left. And it just barely got over."
When Avila saw it bounce, he knew. So did the umpires, who called for the home run as Fielder rounded third. Avila just kept running, too happy to be exhausted.
"I'm ready to sleep," Avila said later. "I'm glad we have an off-day. This weekend has been crazy."