Every game counts ... one
But they all count just one.
Sunday night’s prime-time game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers has a playoff vibe and first-place implications.
One game separating the two teams in the standings coming in. Both teams starting their aces: Justin Verlander for the Tigers and Chris Sale for the ChiSox.
A seventh-straight win by the Tigers over the Sox would give them a share of first.
A win by Chicago would put its American League Central Division lead back at two games.
Neither team is going to be eliminated from anything, though.
“This is not like a Super Bowl when you play one game. We’ve got games left, we’ve got to win a lot of games,” manager Jim Leyland said before the game. “Win or lose this game tonight against the White Sox, we gotta win a lot of games, win some games the rest of the way out. I’m sure they feel the same way. This is not one and done, I guess would be a better way to put it.”
Win or lose, both these two teams are locked in a dogfight.
Both teams know that.
“We’re not idiots. We know this series means a lot. It’s September, we need a win. To be able to come in here, in two games, and win the series, that’s a huge uplift for our team, because we know how good we are, we know where the talent, we know how much talent we have in our clubhouse,” said Max Scherzer, who pitched the Tigers to a win Saturday. “Anytime we’re in a pennant chase like this, we always believe in each other.”
The Tigers had already clinched a win of the three-game home series with Saturday’s 5-1 win. They can clinch the season series with a win Sunday, making it 10-4, with four games left to play. The Tigers visit Chicago from Sept. 10-13.
“We’re playing the No. 1 team in our division right now, so we kind of get to choose our own fate, playing against them,” Austin Jackson said.
Whatever way the series works out, though, no way is the world going to end for either team.
No playoff hopes will be dashed on the first weekend of September.
“It’ll be more important after (Sunday) night’s game because we’ll either be tied or two back,” Leyland said late Saturday night. “I usually don’t emphasize series, I did say this is a bigger series because of the situation we were in, it’s a little bigger series But it’s not the end of the world one way or the other. Whether we win tomorrow or lose tomorrow, it’s not the end of the world. We did do, I think, what was really necessary. I think if we’d lost these first two it would have been pretty helter-skelter for (Sunday). But we didn’t. We’ll just see how it plays out. ...
“I’m not trying to be cool and downplay anything. It’s not the end of the world. To win the first two helps. ... But if we lost the first two, you fall five back, it’s still not the end of the world but it makes it a little more difficult,” Leyland continued. “I’m not going to change. I’m not going to do it. I haven’t changed since I’ve been here. I’m not a rah-rah guy. I really try to pump the guys up, I try to keep them loose, I try to pump them up, I try to make it a fun thing for them but it’s a business. I’m not going to change.”
And the players know that, too.
“Couple guys from Kansas City tell me, ‘Oh, you guys got a big series coming.’ I say, ‘No, it’s a big series Kansas City, too.’ Every game right now is big for us, it’s a playoff game. So we want to be out there and play hard and try and win some more games. Every game right now is important. It doesn’t matter what happen tomorrow or the next day. I don’t know how many games left, I think very game counts and is important right now,” Miguel Cabrera said.
“Every series big to us right now. Right now we got a chance to play against them and try to take care of business, play good, try to play hard and see what happens. When they leave, another big series coming with Cleveland.”
After Sunday, the Tigers have 29 games remaining, all but six of them against AL Central teams — six each against Minnesota and Cleveland, and seven against the Royals. Also thrown into the mix are three home dates with Oakland and three road games against the Angels in Anaheim, both series against AL West teams fighting for the two AL Wild Card slots this season.
Email Matthew B. Mowery at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.