"I've never batted at 3 o'clock in the morning -- ever," said Sean Casey, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter. "I was like, 'When's the sun gonna rise?' That was like the Alaskan League."
The clock hit 3:30 a.m. ET at almost the exact time Guillen's three-run home run in the 11th inning landed in the Tigers bullpen, earning Detroit a 9-6 win over the Yankees on Saturday morning at Comerica Park. It ended a four-hour, 24-minute marathon that was actually more than 12 hours at the park for most of the players.
"Am I glad it's over," asked Chad Durbin, who pitched the 11th inning to earn the win. "Heck yeah."
The turbulent late-summer weather that has brought real-life havoc to much of the Midwest over the past week set the tone for what would be a long, long night at the ballpark. Two different storm cells passed over Comerica Park. The first brought a torrential downpour over the stadium just before the scheduled game time of 7:05 p.m. Soon after the grounds crew cleared out the water from that storm, the second cell brought lighter rain around 9:30 and stuck around for another hour or so.
Because this is the Yankees' only trip into Detroit in the regular season, the decision of whether to postpone the game rested with the umpiring crew, not the home team. With the weather clear behind the front, they decided to wait it out.
"They certainly get suggestions [from Major League Baseball] to try to get every game in," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "So the umpire was patient, real patient. Players from both sides probably weren't as patient, and I understand that. But he did what he thought he had to do, and we got the game in."
Tigers starter Andrew Miller delivered the game's first pitch at 11:06 p.m. ET. They were in the third inning at the stroke of midnight when the offense picked up.
After Magglio Ordonez's two-run home run off Roger Clemens had given the Tigers a first-inning lead, fellow American League MVP candidate Alex Rodriguez put New York in front with a two-run shot of his own, taking Miller deep to right-center field off a 96-mph fastball. Curtis Granderson, who entered the night 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position this month, tripled in a run and scored another to answer in the bottom of the third before tripling in two more runs in the fourth.
Three consecutive baserunners in the fifth chased Miller from the game at 12:55 a.m., with Hideki Matsui's RBI single a few minutes later off Tim Byrdak knotting the score at six runs apiece.
"They'd foul pitches off, they'd take pitches and then as soon as I'd make a mistake, they'd capitalize on it," Miller said. "That's why they're Yankees. Those are the best hitters in baseball."
Leyland likes to say that the only momentum is the next day's pitcher. By the time Miller was out, it was the next day, and the pitchers that followed changed the course of the game. No other runs scored for another 2 1/2 hours.
Byrdak retired five consecutive batters after Matsui's single, followed by scoreless innings from Jason Grilli and Bobby Seay. Fernando Rodney struck out the side in the ninth before inducing a double play to help get out of the 10th.
"Tremendous job," Leyland said of his relief corps. "To hold that lineup down for that long, it's amazing, really, because that's arguably the best lineup in baseball."
Yankees relievers, however, were doing the same. Edwar Ramirez, Joba Chamberlain and Kyle Farnsworth each retired the side in a scoreless inning apiece, sending down nine consecutive Tigers before Luis Vizcaino stranded two runners in the ninth with a Casey popup.
That sent the game into extra innings around 2:35 a.m. Much of the sellout crowd had left by then, and of the remaining fans, backup catcher Mike Rabelo was counting how many were asleep. Yet amazingly, many of those who stayed seemingly got more and more into the game as it went on.
"The fans that stayed around, it was amazing," Seay said. "I thought that really kept us going, helped us out. There's some very loyal fans out there that deserve a lot of credit for this win."
They had their hearts broken in the 10th when Mariano Rivera escaped a bases-loaded jam. Brandon Inge nearly ended it then, but first baseman Andy Phillips lunged to snare his line drive before it could sail into right field.
"He made a heck of a play," Leyland said. "I thought it was a hit for sure. We were about ready to jump up and down, and then all of a sudden, he snagged it."
Not until the bottom of the 11th did the Tigers bring the deciding run home so they could go home. Casey and Ordonez hit back-to-back singles off left-hander Sean Henn -- one a hard-hit liner to center, the other a blooper into shallow right for Ordonez's fourth hit. They extended the inning for Guillen, who lofted Henn's 1-2 pitch into the bullpen beyond left field.
"Nobody thinks about how many hours you put out there -- about the long day," Guillen said. "You just focus on having nice at-bats and making the routine plays."
Those few who weren't thinking of the long day could certainly feel it once the game finally ended. The Tigers emptied the dugout to mob Guillen at home plate, but it was a much more subdued clubhouse.
"You know you're out there on adrenaline," Seay said. "Once that wears off, guys hit a wall really quick."
Whatever momentum they had likely stopped at the wall. Still, the Tigers will remember this one for a long time.
"It was a huge game -- huge game," Casey said, then paused. "Huge game."