After dropping the matinee of the doubleheader, and placing Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen on the disabled list, the last thing Detroit needed was another loss before heading on a seven-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Boston.
Luckily, Ryan Raburn came to the rescue.
Raburn, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, lined a double to left-center field in the eighth inning to help the Tigers complete a comeback and defeat the Blue Jays, 6-5, to split the day-night doubleheader at Comerica Park.
"We get to enjoy this one," Leyland said. "This could have been a disastrous day for us, and it wasn't. We battled our tails off. The first game was a good game. We had our chances. It wasn't like we played bad baseball all day. We played pretty good."
Raburn certainly will be enjoying the trip to Tampa Bay. Well, actually, he was going to enjoy the trip anyway. He was born and raised in Tampa, but he admitted his go-ahead hit will make the long trip after a long day at the ballpark a little bit sweeter.
"It's really special for me," Raburn said. "I'm going to go sleep in my own bed. That last hit made it a little easier to fly home."
With the injuries to Ordonez and Guillen, along with the broken hand Brandon Inge suffered earlier this week, the Tigers had five rookies starting in the nightcap. And when the team fell behind by four runs before batting in the sixth inning, it seemed the game would be lost by the banged up squad.
But Detroit chipped away with two runs in the sixth inning before posting the four-spot in the eighth.
"We hung in there," Leyland said. "One thing about it, running balls out and hustling won't be a problem with this team, because there are so many rookies they are going to want to make an impression."
Center fielder Austin Jackson led the charge in both innings for the Tigers. He isn't a fresh-faced rookie, like several others, but he's a rookie nonetheless -- even if he didn't play like one on Sunday. Jackson went 5-for-9 on the day, which included two triples to put him tied for the American League lead with seven.
The sixth and eighth innings were the only frames where the Tigers were able to tally any runs. Jackson reached base to lead off both innings. He scored in the sixth inning, after his second triple of the day, on an infield hit from Johnny Damon. In the eighth inning, he scored when slugger Miguel Cabrera lined an RBI double down the right-field line to bring the Tigers within a run.
Then it was time for Raburn. With the bases loaded, he lined a slider off Jason Frasor (3-3) to the wall in left-center field.
"It was a slider, down," Raburn said. "I was just trying to get in there and get that one run. But I got it in the wind and it carried a little bit."
To Raburn, who Leyland said will be seeing more time due to the three big injuries, it was a clutch hit that he's been waiting to bust out for awhile.
"It was huge," Raburn said. "After the year I had last year, I know I had the ability to do this. The swing just hadn't been there. Without Magglio or Carlos, I have to get it back to where it was last year. I can help this team a lot. Miguel can't carry us the whole way. Some of us other guys have to step it up and start swinging good."
The Tigers received a strong starting pitching performance from Jeremy Bonderman. The right-hander only lasted 5 2/3 innings, but was very effective. He recorded six strikeouts and made it through the first four innings unscathed before surrendering a run in the fifth and three more in the sixth. He allowed only one walk, which was all the Tigers' pitching staff gave out in both games combined, before exiting.
Jose Bautista, who leads the Majors with 27 homers, lined a long ball off Bonderman on the first pitch of the sixth inning. Other than that, Bonderman was fairly pleased with his start.
"They are a very aggressive team," Bonderman said of the Blue Jays' lineup that leads the Major Leagues with 149 home runs. "You try to slow it up and move around. They don't really get off the fastball too many times.
"I threw a good breaking ball today. I threw some BP sinkers and just tried to keep guys off-balance a little bit."
Detroit used Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine in relief of Bonderman, before Phil Coke entered and earned the win (6-1). Closer Jose Valverde threw the ninth inning and allowed a solo home run to DeWayne Wise to lead off the inning. The homer marked the second of the day surrendered by Valverde, after not having allowed a long ball since April 7. But he regrouped and retired the next three batters he faced to lock up the Tigers' victory.
With the inexperienced Tigers lineup traveling to square off against American League East contenders, Leyland said some young players are going to have to step up. On Sunday night, it was Raburn's turn.
"We've got some talent, and if we can get some guys to step it up and get their swings back going, I still think we have a good chance," Raburn said. "We have a long road ahead of us without those guys. We just have to keep continuing to play hard and keep battling."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.