When it did, the Tigers celebrated perhaps the most spectacular comeback of the 2012 baseball season.
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Cabrera hit a two-run homer to cap a stunning five-run rally by Detroit with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, giving the Tigers a 10-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. Cleveland has lost nine straight, and this one slipped away in unthinkable fashion.
Cabrera followed with his 27th homer, which finally came down beyond the fence in left-center.
"It was a little scary," Cabrera said. "It was high. I was not sure if I hit it out. I'm glad."
It's the first time all season a team has trailed by at least three runs with two outs and nobody on in its last at-bat and come back to win in that inning, according to STATS, LLC. The last time it happened was Sept. 27, when Arizona scored six runs in a similar situation to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6.
The Tigers never led this one until the end. They rallied to tie it after trailing 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4 -- then managed their remarkable comeback in extra innings.
"You never know what's going to happen," Cabrera said. "You've got to make 27 outs."
Actually, the Indians got 29. Even that wasn't enough.
"This is very deflating," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "You never believe it is going to happen. Even with Infante at the plate, I'm feeling confident because we've got two out, a two-run lead and our closer on the mound."
Detroit's Darin Downs (1-0) earned his first career win.
The Tigers remained within 1½ games of the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, winning a wild game in which catcher Gerald Laird and manager Jim Leyland were ejected in the second inning.
Jackson and Infante had four hits apiece, including two triples for Jackson and a homer by Infante.
The Indians then brought Jose Lopez off the bench as an extra infielder, removing Shin-Soo Choo from right field and playing with only two outfielders. Quintin Berry hit a grounder to first baseman Carlos Santana, who started a home-to-first double play that sent the game to extra innings tied at 5.
Hafner hit his 200th career homer, and Carrera followed with his first. The Indians added another run in the inning, but it somehow wasn't enough.
"Nobody's heads were hanging," Jackson said. "I think that's the good thing. Everybody had their heads up and anything can happen in those situations."
Max Scherzer allowed four runs and 10 hits in five innings for the Tigers. He struck out nine -- the ninth time he's done that this season -- but the Indians chipped away against him.
Cleveland scored twice with two outs in the first on RBI singles by Michael Brantley and Hafner. Fielder answered with a run-scoring single in the bottom half for the Tigers, starting a pattern in which every time Cleveland scored, Detroit answered with at least a run in the bottom of the inning.
Choo's 13th home run of the year made it 3-1 in the third. Detroit scored a run in the third and tied it on Avila's RBI single the following inning. Santana brought home a run with a single in the fifth to give Cleveland a 4-3 lead, but Infante evened things up with a solo shot in the bottom half.
Cleveland starter Chris Seddon was pitching in the big leagues for the first time since Oct 1, 2010, when he was with Seattle. He was signed in January to a minor league contract.
The left-hander allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Hafner's RBI single gave Cleveland a 5-4 advantage in the seventh. Fielder tied it with a sacrifice fly.
Vinnie Pestano came on with men on first and third on nobody out in the seventh and allowed Fielder's fly ball. It was the first of 15 inherited runners he's allowed to score this season.
Laird and Leyland were ejected after Laird hit a comebacker to the pitcher, and Seddon had to run to first with the ball amid some confusion over who was covering. Seddon went to tag Laird, who slid into first but was called out.
Moments later, Laird came out of the dugout, having apparently already been thrown out. Leyland was right behind him and argued with multiple umpires before being ejected by plate ump Joe West.
- The Indians designated RHP Jeremy Accardo for assignment so they could purchase the contract of Seddon from Triple-A Columbus.
- Cabrera was the DH on Sunday instead of playing 3B because of a sore ankle.
- The Tigers begin a four-game series against the New York Yankees on Monday night. Justin Verlander (11-7) takes the mound for Detroit against Ivan Nova (10-5) of the visiting Yankees.
- Cleveland returns home for a three-game set with Minnesota. Zach McAllister (4-3) takes the mound for the Indians on Monday night against Scott Diamond (9-5).