Yet with Tuesday's 8-0 defeat to the Rangers, Detroit has seen a seven-game losing streak take it from the thick of the American League Central race coming out of the All-Star break to just four games over .500 and now 3 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox. The Tigers knew they weren't home free after taking back-to-back games from the Twins a week and a half ago, but they couldn't have figured they'd fall back so quickly.
Not since the Tigers stumbled out of the gate to lose their first seven games in 2008 have they suffered this long of a skid, tying the longest losing streak of Jim Leyland's managerial tenure in Detroit. They haven't lost this many in a row this late in the season since 2005, when separate losing streaks of eight and nine games in September helped cost then-manager Alan Trammell his job.
The seven-game slide is the Tigers' longest losing streak out of the All-Star break since 1995. That team headed into the Midsummer Classic four games over .500 and just three games out of the AL East lead. By the time the Tigers bounced back from a four-game sweep to the Angels and four straight losses on the West Coast, they were in third place, seven games back, and on their way to a second-half freefall that closed out Sparky Anderson's tenure as manager.
Nobody is suggesting that would happen this year. Nor are they suggesting that they could fall out of the postseason chase tomorrow. But their comments after the game reflected some more urgency than they might have a few days ago.
Leyland talked about "small mental mistakes that you just can't make."
Miguel Cabrera said, "The way we play right now, anybody can beat us right now. We need to stop that and try to make something happen."
Ramon Santiago was wondering about good-luck charms, rituals, whatever the Tigers can do to break out of this hex.
Their four-game sweep at Cleveland fit into their season-long road struggles. But until now, they had only suffered back-to-back losses at home to the same team once this season, back around Memorial Day weekend to Oakland.
"We aren't playing good enough," Leyland said. "We played a Cleveland team that caught fire over there in Cleveland and that went up there to Minnesota last night and won there. That's what I talk about all the time. This is the big leagues. They are good teams up here. They are all good teams, just some teams are having better years than others. If you aren't on top of your game, you get beat."
Tuesday's score was uglier than most of the game actually was. The Tigers had a 3-0 deficit after Ian Kinsler tripled in a run and scored in the opening inning and David Murphy homered leading off the second, part of an early onslaught against Armando Galarraga in his first start in the Majors since July 6.
Galarraga recovered to last 7 1/3 innings and rest an overtaxed Detroit bullpen, despite giving up one deep fly ball after another.
"For me, it's not a great start," Galarraga said. "But I just battled out there and tried to keep the game close. I know I let in two runs in the beginning and after that second-inning home run. You just try to keep the game close and battle."
On many other nights, he might've done that. The way Tommy Hunter used the Tigers' aggressiveness against them, however, the Tigers could never get back in the game. Hunter (7-0) retired 14 of Detroit's first 16 batters and induced ground ball after ground ball.
Cabrera accounted for half of Detroit's four hits. His seventh-inning double was the lone hit for extra bases. Brennan Boesch and Magglio Ordonez both went hitless, falling to 3-for-25 and 4-for-24, respectively, since the All-Star break.
Offense was the problem that took a lot of life out of a game that might've been one big rally away for much of the night until Kinsler and Josh Hamilton hit back-to-back homers off Casey Fien.
"What we need to do is look in the mirror, look at what we see wrong -- why we're playing like this -- to start to turn around and play like we'd been playing," Cabrera said. "We have to play more relaxed. We have to do our job. We need to do something to make something happen, to turn around everything for the good."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.