CLEVELAND -- The grounded flight that started this Tigers adventure took forever to take off from Boston. The Michael Brantley drive that ended it, by contrast, got out of Progressive Field in a hurry.
In between, the Tigers showed a lot, well beyond what their record after 40 games can reflect.
Their perfect road trip was over long before Brantley's game-ending homer halted their six-game winning streak Monday night with a 5-4 loss to the Indians. After a canceled flight, a short night's sleep and a late arrival, it took extra innings to finally end their unbeaten road swing.
"We were just battling," Rajai Davis said. "It's been a long day for us, obviously, but we battled until the last out. … We have a bunch of fighters here."
They already had shown quite a bit of that on this trip, as well as the 11-game road winning streak that this trek helped build, and the 27-13 record that ties their best 40-game start since 1984. Even in defeat, Monday's turnaround helped reinforce it.
They rolled into the ballpark about 2 1/2 hours before game time after being stranded by plane issues in Boston on Sunday night and kept up well into the morning before finding a hotel. They watched Drew Smyly, the one Tiger who arrived early, labor for the better part of five innings before rallying in the seventh inning on Davis' game-tying single. When they fell behind again behind a shortened bullpen, they rallied in the ninth with a J.D. Martinez pinch-hit home run off closer Cody Allen.
It was Martinez's first home run as a Tiger, nearly a month after his four-homer doubleheader against the Indians' Triple-A affiliate down the road in Columbus earned him a call back to the big leagues. It went out near the deepest part of the park.
"A guy comes off the bench cold, gets a 96-mph fastball up and over the plate and doesn't miss it," Allen said. "That's good baseball right there. Tip your cap to him."
They finally fell on the last pitch of the night, a hanging slider from Al Alburquerque, a strike away from sending this game to the 11th. It came nearly 24 hours after they finished off their series sweep over the Red Sox, a win in which Alburquerque recorded four outs.
"Nobody was like, 'Aw, man, we've got a game.' Nobody was complaining," said Phil Coke, who pitched a scoreless sixth inning before Jesus Aguilar's sacrifice fly in the seventh put the Tigers into rally mode again. "Everybody was all about it. Honestly, I felt like we played that way. We battled. We went into extra innings after an extra-innings flight. I mean, come on. Seriously."
Smyly was the one Tiger who actually had a good night's rest, having flown to Cleveland on Sunday evening ahead of the team, but never appeared in sync. Four of his career-high five walks over as many innings came with two outs, including the Yan Gomes walk that extended the fifth for Nick Swisher's RBI single and Aguilar's first Major League hit to break the 1-1 tie.
Smyly stranded nine baserunners over his five innings of thee-run ball. He was one of the rare starting pitchers who was the first player to the clubhouse before the game, if only by default. He didn't realize the team's travel struggles until he called the front desk Monday morning asking about his luggage. He ended up being picked up by a group of hitters that had every reason to be dragging following the travel adventures.
For six innings, Detroit's lone run off Tribe starter Corey Kluber came from their hottest hitter. Once again, Victor Martinez's two-strike focus paid off with a home run, sending a 2-2 pitch from Kluber 372 feet to right field to lead off the second.
Kluber got on a roll through the middle innings, retiring seven straight batters with four strikeouts, before a Nick Castellanos infield single led off a game-tying rally in the seventh. Alex Avila doubled off the center-field wall to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Kluber retired Andrew Romine, but Davis lined a gapper into right-center, his 12th hit in 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position this year.
"He's got really good stuff," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Kluber. "The fact that we came back against him just shows that his team doesn't give up on themselves."
Cabrera, previously seen icing his right ankle at Fenway Park, posted his third consecutive three-hit game, matching his career-best streak from 2009. Avila, back behind the plate after taking a foul tip to the midsection in Sunday night's game, set up Davis with a double off the center-field fence. Ian Kinsler put the go-ahead run in scoring position after Martinez's homer with a two-out double, but Allen struck out Torii Hunter to extend the game.
In the end, a Tigers bullpen that has dominated for most of May gave up multiple runs in a game for the first time since the Twins roughed up Joba Chamberlain eight days earlier at Comerica Park. That was also the Tigers' last loss.
It was a sign of life for an Indians club that deserately needed it.
"It's huge, especially at the start of a big series, a big rivalry," Brantley said. "Any time you play in the division, it's very important. Hopefully it's a momentum boost and we'll ride that momentum."
For the Tigers, what they desperately needed was some rest.
"We knew the game would end at some point tonight and we'd be able to go back and get some sleep," Ausmus said. "We were hoping to go back and get some sleep with a W, but it wasn't to be."