Brantley’s homer in 10th beats Tigers 5-4

Michael Brantley hits a walk-off home run during the tenth inning against the Tigers.

Ken Blaze

It might have been the lack of sleep.

It could have been the Zubaz, or a bad inning from Phil Coke or one bad pitch from Al Alburqurque.

Whatever the reason, Detroit’s 11-game road winning streak came to an abrupt end Monday night on Michael Brantley’s walk-off homer in the 10th inning. 

The roots of the loss started Sunday night, when the team plane was damaged in a freak accident in Boston. Instead of arriving in Cleveland at 3 am, the team had to head back into town with nothing but the oddly-colored clothes on their back.

After a couple of hours of sleep at the same hotel they had checked out of earlier in the day, the Tigers waited for the plane to be fixed, and waited some more. By the time they were able to make the short flight to Cleveland, it was well past the time they would normally be arriving at the park.

Our offense hadn’t had any sleep, but they kept coming back.

Drew Smyly

"We didn’t get very much sleep, that’s for sure," said Rajai Davis, who hit a game-tying two-run double in the seventh inning. "It was a very long day, and we’re going to need some sleep tonight."

The Tigers finally arrived at the park at 4:20, less than three hours before the first pitch, and nearly 45 minutes ahead of their equipment. 

When the game started, though, it was the only rested player on the roster who couldn’t get things going. Drew Smyly, who had flown to Cleveland before Sunday night’s game, struggled badly with his command, walking five batters to go along with seven hits in five innings. Thanks to his defense and Cleveland’s inability to hit with runners on base, he only allowed three runs, but he knew it could have been worse.

"I battled my fastball all night, and I basically couldn’t throw anything for strikes," he told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating. "Usually when that happens, you get beaten up pretty badly, but I was lucky enough to keep the damage down and give our team a chance to win. Our offense hadn’t had any sleep, but they kept coming back."

Victor Martinez tied the game at 1 with yet another homer in the second inning — he now has 11 against just nine strikeouts — and Rajai Davis made it 3-3 in the seventh with a two-run double. Coke gave up a run in the bottom of the inning — the first allowed by the bullpen on the road trip — but J.D. Martinez forced extra innings in the ninth with the first pinch-hit homer of his career.

"That’s an awesome feeling," he said. "You haven’t been playing all night, and then you get into the game, and with one swing, you’ve given your team a chance to win. I was super pumped when that ball went over the fence."

The Tigers had to be strong favorites once they forced extra innings, given their record and the fact that they had Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez coming up in the 10th.

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Scott Atchison, though, retired the side on eight pitches, and Michael Brantley ended the game by launching a hanging slider from Alburquerque deep into the right-field stands.

"That’s a great win for us, especially against that great team over there," said former Tiger Ryan Raburn, who had two hits and two walks for Cleveland. "We knew they were tired, but they are still the best team in baseball, so we figured we needed every advantage we could get."

Like his players, Brad Ausmus wasn’t about to blame the loss on the travel problems.

"Our guys weren’t concerned with that at all," he said. "It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it isn’t an excuse. We played hard, and we got beat. That happens in this game, and you just tip your cap and try to beat them tomorrow."