DETROIT -- It's cliche to say baseball is a crazy game. But sometimes there's just no other way to describe it. Look no further than Sunday afternoon's series finale between the Tigers and Indians for an example.
The Tigers loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game, yet they failed to plate a single run. Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the 10th, down to their final out, facing a closer who had allowed them one run in seven innings, the Tigers miraculously put together a five-run, come-from-behind rally for a 10-8 victory, capped off by Miguel Cabrera's walk-off home run.
"I don't know what [or] how you would explain what that is other than magic," catcher Alex Avila said.
It truly was a magical game that featured a little bit of everything, from ejections to career firsts to milestone home runs. It was fittingly ended by Cabrera, who lofted a high fly ball just over the fence in left-center and into the opposing bullpen.
"That's why Miggy's the best hitter in the game," said Sunday's starter Max Scherzer, who went five innings but was almost an afterthought with the way everything unfolded. "He was able to hit a homer in that situation to win us a big game, to get us a sweep, everything. It just means so much for him to be able to do that."
Cabrera's big hits are well documented. But it should also be well documented how selfless the seven-time All-Star is. Following his big hit, Cabrera had nothing but praise for his teammates for making the moment possible.
"[Austin] Jackson today, I think he was the key and the hero of the game," Cabrera said. "He kept us in the game offensively [and] gave us a chance to go out there and do our thing."
Jackson finished the day 4-for-6 with two triples and three runs scored. Facing Chris Perez in the 10th inning, it was Jackson's double that proved to be his biggest hit. Perez walked two batters to bring the Tigers' leadoff man to the plate, and Jackson hit one down the left-field line to plate a run and put runners in scoring position.
His hit set the stage for Omar Infante, the newly-acquired second baseman. It was Anibal Sanchez who got all the love from the Tigers' fans on Friday night. On Sunday, it was Infante's turn, as the crowd jumped to its feet when he tied the game at 8 with a two-run single.
For him, it made up for his one bad moment of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With a chance to win the game, Jackson led off the ninth with a triple. Infante followed with a strikeout.
"I feel bad because ... [I] had the opportunity for a walk-off and I don't make contact in that situation. It didn't work out. But the team was never down all game [and] I had another situation."
Infante's play also got lots of love from Cabrera.
"Thank God we got him right now," Cabrera said.
Together, Jackson and Infante combined for eight hits, six runs scored, four RBIs, two doubles, two triples and a home run.
In the ninth, following Infante's strikeout, Cabrera and Prince Fielder were intentionally walked. Quintin Berry stepped up to face an Indians defense with five infielders. The result was a 3-6-3 double play. No runs. Still a tie game.
At that point, a good portion of the Comerica Park crowd of 38,007 had filed out. Another chunk of the remaining crowd left when Travis Hafner hit his 200th career home run in the top of the 10th off Joaquin Benoit. They continued to leave when Ezequiel Carrera followed with his first career shot.
The original crowd was down to about an eighth of what it was. Those fans didn't get to witness what Infante called "the best win he's ever seen," but they got some well-deserved sympathy from Avila.
"Today runs up there with some of the craziest [comebacks] that I've ever been a part of," Avila said. "That was a whole lot of fun. I feel bad for those fans that left early."
In many ways, it's hard to blame them. While the players are trained to never give in, the game certainly seemed to drag on for the fans. Scherzer struggled against a Cleveland lineup that seemed to foul every pitch off -- he needed 105 pitches to get through five innings.
Although entertaining, there was a long delay when catcher Gerald Laird and manager Jim Leyland were ejected from the game in the second inning for arguing a close play at first base.
The Tigers were playing catch-up the entire day, as Infante tied the game up on three separate occasions -- once in the fifth with his first home run since joining Detroit, once by scoring run in the eighth, and then in the 10th.
However, at least for one team the four hour and 10 minute game ended in triumph. Their opponents, now on a nine-game losing streak, were left crushed.
"That one really hurts," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Not only because of the losing streak, but because of how much heart and determination these guys showed throughout the day."
On the other side, the Tigers were celebrating Darin Downs' first career victory and Cabrera's fifth career walk-off homer.
"This is one of the biggest wins of the year," Scherzer said. "For us to be able to come out and have a hard-fought game -- on both sides, throughout the whole game really it was back-and-forth, back-and-forth. For us to win it the way we did, it's just a [show of] character [for] our team."
Although not a single player would call it a "signature win," when you look back on the season it could certainly be remembered as one of them.
"[It's] something like that," Jackson said. "It's tough when you get down. You're not really hanging your head, but you're kind of like, 'Ah, well, if we can do something to get back in it, we will.' Nobody's heads were hanging when we got in the dugout. I think that's a good thing."
Not only a good thing, but as the St. Louis Cardinals proved last year in Game 6 of the World Series, it's a characteristic a championship team must have. Although Detroit certainly has a ways to go in other areas, their passion isn't one of them.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.