Then they had to pounce on Rafael Betancourt, an unheard-of challenge last season which they've now done twice this year.
Betancourt went 13 2/3 innings over 10 appearances without allowing a run to the Tigers last year. Once rookie Matt Joyce jumped on a belt-high 0-2 fastball and drove it to right for a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh, he trotted home with Detroit's seventh run off Betancourt in three-plus innings this year.
"To me, the difference is I think he lost his confidence," said Guillen, a fellow Venezuelan. "When you lose your confidence in this game, it's tough."
The Tigers don't seem to have that problem right now.
"The score can get out of hand, but there's 27 outs to be made," Curtis Granderson said, "and we're going to try to take advantage of them the best we can."
Detroit faced a 4-0 deficit after two innings when the Indians roughed up Tigers starter Eddie Bonine early, including a three-run first. Three straight hits, capped by Grady Sizemore's RBI single, chased Bonine in the fourth and brought in Casey Fossum for what seemed like a mopup situation.
For game purposes, though, the Tigers weren't playing it that way. After a Ben Francisco walk and a Jhonny Peralta double put runners at second and third with nobody out in the fifth, Leyland opted to intentionally walk Casey Blake, load the bases and play the infield in.
"Carlos [Guillen] made nice plays, and I thought I was going to win the game for us. When you play, you give your best shot. I knew we were going to win."
-- Miguel Cabrera
"You don't give up," manager Jim Leyland said. "I walked Casey Blake there because I thought they'd get a run for sure. With the infield in, you take a chance that the lefty will hit one right at somebody and you get a force at home, maybe a double play."
Instead, Fossum didn't allow another ball in play, putting over a called third strike on Shin-Soo Choo before fanning Ryan Garko and Andy Marte to preserve a 5-0 score.
"That's just a chance you take," Leyland said. "We were just fortunate it worked out.
After two hits and an error scored Sal Fasano in the sixth, the Indians had their six-run lead and runners at the corners with nobody out. Fossum nearly pulled the same trick, this time against the middle of the Indians order. Ben Francisco popped out to short before Peralta and Blake both went down swinging.
The way Byrd was pitching, it didn't seem to matter. Seemingly set to improve upon his 9-2 career record against the Tigers, Byrd recovered from early hits to retire eight consecutive batters from the third inning into the sixth.
Joyce's one-out double in the sixth was the Tigers' first extra-base hit of the night. Edgar Renteria's ensuing single broke up the shutout bid before the seventh inning broke up the lead.
Back-to-back singles from Dane Sardinha and Curtis Granderson led off the inning and knocked out Byrd in favor of Betancourt. Last year's stellar setup man for the Tribe promptly loaded the bases with a Clete Thomas walk, then watched Guillen's two-run single bring the tying run to the plate.
Betancourt briefly gathered himself to retire Cabrera with an RBI groundout and put Joyce in an 0-2 hole. Instead of finishing off Joyce, however, he watched Joyce finish off Cleveland's lead.
"We don't believe we're out of it, even when we're down, 6-0," Joyce said. "Everyone in here believes. Everybody knows right now we're going to come back and score some runs."
On this night, seemingly everyone was helping. Joel Zumaya recovered from a single and a walk to work a scoreless eighth, ending Cleveland's threat with a curveball for a called third strike on Jhonny Peralta. Todd Jones (4-0) allowed a leadoff double in the ninth, but two quick-reaction plays at third from a drawn-in Guillen salvaged the inning. The first play on Garko's grounder left Blake helpless between third and home. The second retired Marte for the third out.
After Marcus Thames' pinch-hit single led off the bottom of the inning, Cabrera did his part, lining a fastball from Jensen Lewis (0-3) into the left-field bullpen for his second walkoff homer of the year.
"Carlos made nice plays, and I thought I was going to win the game for us," Cabrera said. "When you play, you give your best shot. I knew we were going to win."
The Tigers can't have the same confidence about the season quite yet, because part of that is out of their control. The White Sox overcame a five-run deficit to beat the Royals and keep the Tigers seven games back. But from their own standpoint, they feel confident about holding up their end.
"We feel confident, comfortable, excited, relaxed, no matter who happens to be up there, like Matt Joyce when he came up there in his situation, to go ahead and tie the game," Granderson said. "Doesn't matter who it happens to be, guys are coming up big and can do some damage anytime."