DETROIT — The Indians showed the kind of team they have on Sunday.
They showed their grit and their talent in beating the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in 10 innings.
Down 3-2 in the top of the ninth, the Indians got a game-tying hit from Michael Brantley, and then a game-winner from pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds in the 10th.
With Chris Perez advising Terry Francona he had slight shoulder soreness (Francona said it’s not a big deal), Joe Smith pitched the ninth, Rich Hill pitched two-thirds of the 10th and Cody Allen got the final hitter to land his first save.
The list goes on.
Asdrubal Cabrera turned another eye-opening double-play in the ninth and started the 10th with a double.
Michael Bourn scored the tying run after a pinch-hit walk and stolen base.
Zack McAllister held the Tigers to three runs in six innings.
That’s the Indians, a collection of players without a superstar, but with pieces that fit and with parts that contribute.
“I thought,” manager Terry Francona said, “that was as much a team effort as you’re ever going to see.”
From the big things to the little things.
In the 10th, Bourn was on first with Carlos Santana on second when Reynolds singled to left. Bourn thought he could beat the throw to third, but he knew if he took a chance and was out then Santana’s run might not score before he was tagged. So he stopped and got himself in a rundown to make sure the winning run scored.
This is the Indians 35 games into the season as they learn about their team and themselves.
No one player carries the team, but several contribute. And in any game it might be someone different.
“There’s something to be said for just keeping on playing,” Francona said. “Just keep on playing.”
The Indians started their first series in Detroit with a clunker of a loss on Friday.
They came back to hang on to a 7-6 win on Saturday.
And on Sunday they came back for a 4-3 win.
“When things don’t go your way, don’t feel sorry for yourself,” Francona said. “We were playing a good team. They know how to win. Just keep playing.”
What’s it mean to take two out of three in Detroit?
“That we took two out of three,” Francona said. “We got a doubleheader (Monday).”
Until the ninth, the game was one of missed chances, as the Indians left nine on base and went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Cabrera hit into a double-play in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Brantley grounded into another double-play in the seventh with runners on first and second.
But the Tigers missed chances too. McAllister got Miguel Cabrera to pop out and Prince Fielder to strike out swinging with the bases loaded in the fourth. The Tigers’ two feared hitters were 0-for-3 with chances to drive in runs.
“It was frustrating for both sides,” Reynolds said.
When it counted most, the Indians came through.
Brantley’s base hit came with the Indians down to their last out, on a line drive to left field.
“The pitch was probably middle away,” Brantley said. “A little elevated. I didn’t want to try to pull it or try to hit it out of the ballpark. I just tried to put a good solid swing on it.
“And I knew who I had on second base. If you get a base hit you’re scoring.”
Reynolds hit a changeup to left in the 10th as he pinch-hit for Lonnie Chisenhall (who is struggling).
“I was just trying to get something up in the zone,” he said. “He started me off changeup, changeup. He left the third one a little more up than the other two and I was able to squeeze it through the hole.”
Hill got the first two outs in the ninth, and Allen blew a fastball by Matt Tuiasosopo to end the game.
The Indians have won 12-of-14, and after a 5-10 start have gone 15-5.
They are tied with Detroit for first place in the American League Central.
It’s not even the middle of May, so nobody will overreact, including Francona and especially fans who have seen the team start fast and fade before.
But were it not for the fades of 2011 and ‘12, this team might have already won some hearts.
Because it has shown a good mix of talent and enthusiasm — and managing — to turn around a tough start.