CLEVELAND -- Good teams make rallies out of opportunities, big or small, obvious or unlikely. Tuesday was one of the least likely of all, and the Tigers turned it into a game-changer before they had to take the field on defense.
They've had plenty of big innings on their way to taking command of the American League Central, but they hadn't seen a Delmon Young walk since he came over from the Twins 22 games ago. He drew a walk Tuesday, his first since Aug. 10, and the Tigers turned it into a five-run inning on six straight two-out singles. They turned a shutdown inning from Rick Porcello into three more runs in the second, and they turned the second game of this AL Central showdown into a 10-1 runaway win over the Indians at Progressive Field.
And it all started with a two-out walk.
"Crazy, huh," said Don Kelly, who had one of the RBI singles. "It's a crazy game."
That's the kind of baseball the Tigers are playing these days. It's a long way from late April, when they came to Cleveland and lost three consecutive late decisions.
As a result, they're turning the division race into an anticlimax. They hold an eight-game lead on the White Sox, the team they swept over the weekend with 18 runs in the finale. They're 8 1/2 games up on the Indians with Justin Verlander taking the mound against them Wednesday.
"As a team, we have to feel great. I'm not going to lie to you," said Victor Martinez, who combined with fellow former Indian Jhonny Peralta to drive in half of Detroit's runs. "But at the same time, we still have some work to do, and you just don't know what can happen. This is baseball. That's why you never take anything for granted."
They're confident, but they're building off it rather than resting on it. They're showing the kind of late-season drive not seen in Detroit since their great teams of the 1980s.
They know what's ahead if they keep playing like this. They're just not looking towards it. They were just looking towards the chance they have Wednesday.
"I like our chances," said Ramon Santiago, who had the last of the first-inning hits. "I think everybody in the clubhouse knows it's a big series. We just come here and take care of business."
They all know Fausto Carmona. Martinez and Peralta played with him the last time the Indians went to the postseason in 2007. The rest have played against him long enough, including Young.
When Young stepped to the plate, Carmona was an out away from retiring the side in order, and Young was 90 games into his Tigers tenure without ball four. Considering he has batted third since his arrival Aug. 15, directly in front of Miguel Cabrera, pitchers have a motivation not to pitch around him.
He was just 5-for-23 off Carmona entering the night, but Carmona lost him on five pitches. His demise by small ball followed from there.
Carmona forced Cabrera into an 0-2 count, but Cabrera got a breaking ball he could handle and lined it into left. After a balk moved up both runners, Martinez sent them both in with a simple ground ball through the middle.
"I caught Fausto for a long time," Martinez said. "I'm going to have an idea what to expect when I go up there. Definitely, when he keeps the ball down, he's one of the toughest pitchers in the league. When he gives you a pitch to hit, you have to make sure you don't miss it."
None of them did. Alex Avila singled Martinez over. Peralta sneaked a ball down the left-field line to plate Martinez. Kelly and Santiago sent successive pitches into the outfield from there, with Kelly plating Avila.
"He was throwing a lot of fastballs early," Santiago said. "He was throwing strikes, so you need a good approach to make him bring the ball up. When we see that pitch, we were being aggressive."
Second-inning doubles from Andy Dirks and Cabrera chased the sinkerballer with his shortest outing in two years. Once wild pitches from Chad Durbin brought Cabrera around to score, Carmona's line was complete with seven runs on eight hits over 1 1/3 innings.
"After two outs and nobody on, he just couldn't make pitches after that," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He left the ball out over the middle of the plate and left-handers went 5-for-6 against him and just killed him."
For Porcello, it was eerily reminiscent of his last meeting with the Indians on Aug. 21, when a seven-run third inning put him in command. He didn't get out of the fourth inning in that game. He remembered that, and he wanted to pitch aggressively.
If he was going to get hit again, it was going to be on his sinker, not his second- or third-best offering.
"That's my pitch, and that was pretty much the key to the game is just trying to locate that thing," Porcello said. "It was sinking pretty good, and we were able to get some quick outs, a lot of ground balls. It was nice that it worked out the way we wanted to."
Porcello (13-8) allowed one hit over his first six innings before Kosuke Fukudome's second homer in as many days led off the bottom of the seventh. In between, Porcello retired 13 straight batters, 10 of them by groundout. Just as impressive, he used just 62 pitches through six.
Though Fukudome's homer broke up the shutout, it was an Asdrubal Cabrera single and Jim Thome walk that sent Tigers manager Jim Leyland to his bullpen after Porcello threw 75 pitches. Phil Coke struck out Jason Kipnis, then sent down Lonnie Chisenhall as well before retiring the Tribe in the eighth.