The Tigers looked dead in the water a couple of times Tuesday night, trailing 5-1 early and then 8-3 in the sixth inning.
But they kept punching and kicking and clawing and with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the seventh — much of it against elite Indians reliever Andrew Miller — they found a way to beat the Central Division-leading Indians for a second straight game, 9-8.
Credit, too, a very taxed bullpen for finding a way to get the final six outs.
Manager Ron Gardenhire put it on lefty Daniel Stumpf to get through the eighth inning. Stumpf loaded the bases with no outs — a double, and back-to-back walks.
Still, there was nobody warming up. Pitching coach Chris Bosio went to the mound to reinforce to Stumpf, it was sink or swim for him.
Stumpf rallied. He struck out Brendan Guyer and got Jason Kipnis to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.
That left the ninth to Shane Greene, who would be working a fourth straight day. And there was drama. He got the first two outs quickly, and had the third out in his hand — a tapper by Rajai Davis back to the mound. But he threw it wild and Davis, the tying run, was on second base.
Davis, who had three hits and scored twice, went to third on a wild pitch.
But Greene regrouped and got the dangerous Michael Brantley to ground out to end the game.
About that five-run seventh inning. The Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate. It started against reliever Dan Otero.
John Hicks got his second single of the game and scored on James McCann's second double of the game.
After Jose Iglesias moved McCann to third by hitting a ground ball to the right side of the infield, Dixon Machado brought him home with a ground ball to shortstop Francisco Lindor, whose throw bounced off catcher Yan Gomes.
It was 8-6 at that point and manager Terry Francona summoned Miller, who had recently come off the disabled list.
JaCoby Jones, who homered in the first inning, greeted Miller with a double, scoring Machado. Pete Kozma singled to score Jones and tie the score.
Then, with one out, Miller walked three straight hitters — Victor Martinez and Niko Goodrum to load the bases, then Hicks to bring in the go-ahead run.
Who saw that coming? Perhaps nobody who watched the first five innings.
Tigers left-hander Francisco Liriano had allowed just one run in the first two innings in his previous seven starts. So, when he loaded the bases with Indians in the first inning, you expected him to find a way to wiggle out of it.
Especially after he struck out Gomes on three pitches for the second out.
But Guyer slammed the first pitch Liriano threw him, a 93-mph fastball, and sent it on a line over the fence in left field — the first grand slam of his career.
It took 53 pitches for Liriano to work through the first two innings. Erik Gonzalez led off the second inning with a home run. Liriano had allowed three home runs in 40 1/3 innings this season; now he'd yielded two in the span of eight batters.
He would leave the game with runners at the corners and one out in the fifth. Rookie Zac Reininger relieved and ended the rally by getting Guyer to ground into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double-play.
Reininger would create his own mess in the sixth inning. After a walk and a single, Rajai Davis ripped a two-run double into the corner in left field. Davis had three hits, stole a base and scored a run.
The inning wasn't over. Reininger walked Michael Brantley to put runners on first and second with one out. Jose Ramirez hit a ground ball to first baseman Hicks. The ball bounced past him and into the right-field corner, scoring Davis — 8-3.
It was ruled a double and the Tigers were in serious catch-up mode.
Nick Castellanos, in his first game back after missing two with a bruised pinky on his left hand, swatted his fourth home run of the season in the sixth inning. He hit a missile (101 mph exit velocity) that Davis caught at the wall in left in the first inning.
The Tigers will be up against it in the series finale Wednesday afternoon. Lefty Ryan Carpenter will be called up from Toledo to make his second spot start of the season. The Tigers will likely send down a reliever to make room — possibly Reininger.
And the rest of the bullpen is taxed. Here's the usage the last four days, including Saturday's double-header.
Buck Farmer — three outings, 2 1/3 innings.
Joe Jimenez — three outings, 2 2/3 innings.
Greene — four outings, 4 innings.
Warwick Saupold — three outings, 3 1/3 innings.
Stumpf — three outings, 1 2/3 innings.
Reininger — two outings, 2 2/3 innings.
Lewis Coleman — two outings, 2 2/3 innings.