DETROIT -- The frustration was evident on Jeimer Candelario's face after his low line drive up the middle went right to Francisco Lindor with the bases loaded in the 10th inning Saturday. He had a chance to beat the Indians and end a long day at Comerica Park, and he couldn't do it.
"I was just battling, just trying to hit the ball, trying to get the run in," the Tigers' young third baseman said. "And when you hit it right at people, it's a little frustrating, but I continued battling and battling. You never know."
When he connected with Cody Allen's 2-0 fastball in the 12th inning, launching a ball toward the Detroit skyline, he knew, well before the ball landed in the right-field seats, handing the Tigers a 4-2 victory.
"When I swung and it hit the barrel," he said following the win, "I said, 'Wow, thank God. Thank God.'"
The Tigers and Indians might not go to the wire in the American League Central, but their weekend series at Comerica Park has not been short on late-inning drama. On Saturday, though, the drama carried on well after a Mike Clevinger-Mike Fiers pitching duel ended with no-decisions for both. Between a nearly two-hour rain delay and a game that was nearing the four-hour mark, the tension was balanced by exhaustion.
"Two teams that can actually swing the bat pretty good get into a game like that, and it seems like everybody's trying to hit the home run to win the game," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When it goes like that, it's just an amazing thing how it happens.
"Both teams could've won the game. You know it's going to come down to a big swing eventually, and that's what happened with Candy."
One day after Jason Kipnis hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the ninth off Shane Greene, the Tigers' closer retired Kipnis during a perfect ninth to send Saturday's game into extra innings. Candelario's liner to Lindor was part of Dan Otero's escape from a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 10th before Tigers counterpart Warwick Saupold retired three consecutive left-handed hitters with two on in the top of the 11th.
"He made some big pitches and got us back in the dugout with the game tied," Gardenhire said. "Games like that, it's going to break somewhere. Luckily for us, we put a swing late."
With the top of the Tigers' lineup due up in the 12th, Indians manager Terry Francona turned to Allen, who had allowed just five earned runs in 39 2/3 innings against American League Central opponents since the start of last season. Candelario had never faced Allen, but got his chance when Jose Cabrera hit a 1-2 pitch up the middle for a two-out single to extend the inning.
Allen had an 0-2 count on Cabrera and lost him. He fell into a 2-0 count on Candelario trying to get him to chase a fastball inside and a breaking ball in the dirt.
"I was just ready for the fastball anytime," Candelario said. "I don't want to swing curveball there. In that moment, I was expecting fastball, but I was not cheating. If you see fastball, you hit it. That's it. If I cheated, I probably would've fouled the ball."
The fastball was out and over the plate at 93 mph. Candelario sent it out at 108.3 mph, an estimated 415-foot drive according to Statcast™, for his first career walk-off homer. He became the first Tiger to homer off Allen since J.D. Martinez on Sept. 2, 2014.
For someone who was 0-for-9 for the series and 3-for-24 for the season against Cleveland before the at-bat, the impact was more than exit velocity.
"That was big," Gardenhire said. "It made a loud sound, and it was a great swing. We needed that."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Saupold escapes jam: Left-handed hitters were 14-for-42 for the season against Saupold going into the game. But with no lefty relievers in the Tigers' bullpen, Gardenhire had little alternative but to turn to the Aussie with three lefty hitters due up after back-to-back walks from Buck Farmer to open the 11th inning. Lonnie Chisenhall's pop-up bunt attempt gave him a critical first out before he made 3-1 pitches on Yonder Alonso and Kipnis to escape.
"Huge boost of confidence," Saupold said. "I've always trusted myself against lefties. I was really good against lefties in Spring Training. I know it was only Spring Training, but I really wanted to work this offseason on my changeup and try to get lefties out more consistently, being able to be more versatile. It worked out. I made some pitches and did the job."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Wilson rides bullpen cart:Alex Wilson had said ever since rupturing the plantar fascia in his left foot a month ago that he would most likely use the bullpen cart when he returned, something no Tiger had done since the team introduced the carts this season. On Saturday, Wilson did just that, taking a ride from the Tigers' bullpen to third base for his entrance with a runner on and two outs in the eighth. He became the first Tiger to ride the cart, and the second Major Leaguer. Toronto's John Axford hitched a ride twice last homestand.
"The only guy that I knew would do that would be Alex Wilson," Gardenhire said. "And I tip my hat to him, because he had the courage to do that. Good for him. As long as he comes in and gets them out, I don't really care."
HE SAID IT
"I was jumped on and they threw Gatorade right in my eyes, water, the cooler, everything. It was special." -- Candelario, on the celebration at home plate
The Tigers will try to end Corey Kluber's run of 18 consecutive scoreless innings against them as the series concludes Sunday with a 1:10 p.m. ET matinee at Comerica Park. Detroit hasn't handed Kluber (9-2, 1.96 ERA) a loss since last May, and hasn't scored against him since last September. Artie Lewicki (0-1, 3.86) gets the start for the Tigers.