CLEVELAND -- The Indians have needed this. The fireworks popping over the stadium. Fans inside the stadium erupting in cheers. Players mobbing one another on the diamond after a walk-off hit against a division rival.
Cleveland has sorely needed something to celebrate.
On Sunday, Lonnie Chisenhall's sweet swing offered precisely that to his team and to this city, which has witnessed a two-month stumble down the standings. Chisenhall's bases-loaded single off Tigers closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning propelled the Tribe to a 7-6 walk-off victory and an on-field party.
"It's about time we did that," Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez said with a wide smile. "It's really exciting, especially after the kind of season that we've been through."
The win was only the second in the past nine games for the Indians (61-86), who have collected just 11 victories in their past 48 contests. Cleveland has won two of its past four games when trailing after eight innings -- this after opening the year with a 1-75 ledger in such scenarios.
Jimenez paved the way to the win column with six solid innings, giving the offense enough time to scratch and claw and claim a 5-3 lead over that span. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera needed just one swing -- a three-run home run off sidearmer Joe Smith in the seventh -- to erase all that hard work.
While Cabrera circled the bases, a section of visiting fans rose to their feet and joined together in loud chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P! It would be hard to moan that their cries were without merit, given it was Cabrera's 38th home run of the year and it clearly swung momentum Detroit's way.
"Miguel is just flat-out the best hitter in the game to me," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Still, despite the circumstances, the Indians were feeling optimistic.
"Coming into the ninth, for some reason, we felt pretty good about our chances," Acta said. "We had the right people up at the plate."
Cleveland's rally began with second baseman Jason Kipnis, who drilled a pitch from Valverde to deep center field for a leadoff double. Two batters later, Carlos Santana sent an offering bouncing off the glove of Detroit's Don Kelly, and then the right-field wall for a run-scoring triple that pulled the game into a 6-6 deadlock.
At that juncture, the Tigers (77-68) opted to intentionally walk both Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases, setting up a potential double play in all directions. While Chisenhall awaited his appearance in the on-deck circle, Acta jokingly jabbed at Detroit's strategy.
"I yelled at him," said Acta, referring to Chisenhall. "I said, 'That's disrespectful. Come on. Do something.' He just laughed about it. It's something they had to do strategy wise."
The Tigers had had plenty of plays backfire on them already.
Three controversial calls at first base between the fifth and sixth innings paved the way for three Cleveland runs. First-base umpire Brian Knight kept busy, listening to an assortment of heated arguments from Detroit starter Rick Porcello, first baseman Prince Fielder and manager Jim Leyland.
Only Leyland got the boot.
Whether the calls were right or wrong, the Indians took advantage. Consider a situation in the sixth, when Fielder jumped and yelled in dismay when Knight ruled Santana safe on a bang-bang play. While Fielder was throwing a fit, Asdrubal Cabrera was sprinting around the bases, scoring from second base for the Tribe.
"You can't teach that," Acta said. "That was great baserunning."
Fielder declined to speak with reporters after the game.
From Chisenhall, Cleveland received a great bit of hitting.
The 23-year-old third baseman surveyed the scene and knew he had to get a ball deep into the outfield. Valverde gave Chisenhall a first-pitch fastball and the young Tribe cornerstone sent it screaming over the right-center field gap, where it sailed beyond anyone's reach for a walk-off single.
It was a joyous moment for Chisenhall, who was only seven games into his return from a shattered right forearm. When Chisenhall was struck by an ill-fated pitch from Baltimore's Troy Patton on June 29, he required surgery and an estimated recovery period of around 10-12 weeks.
"He deserves a lot of credit," Acta said. "He worked very hard to beat the odds and come back earlier than we were anticipating."
The Indians were not sure Chisenhall would even return this season, but he had other plans.
He worked diligently behind the scenes and rejoined Cleveland's lineup on Sept. 10. In his first game back with the team, the third baseman launched a home run. In his seven games back in the fold, Chisenhall has hit .300 with four RBIs.
It is undeniably a small sample, but it is an encouraging development within an otherwise disheartening second half for Cleveland.
"I was never doubtful," said Chisenhall, wearing a large ice pack wrapped around his right forearm. "It's nice to be back in the lineup. It's nice to get these at-bats and help the team win a few times."
This particular win came with a feeling that has been missing for months.
"That was a fun one for us," Kipnis said.