"That's how it's going to be," Craig Monroe said. "We've got to be ready to go. We're not the ones chasing anymore. They're chasing us."
By they, he didn't just mean the White Sox. He meant everybody -- including, in this case, the team with the American League's worst record.
It was Detroit's 10th win in as many tries against Kansas City this season, two short of the team record for most consecutive victories against a single club. Yet the most recent ones have been anything but automatic. In the last three wins, the Tigers faced a 6-0 deficit after one inning
on May 25 -- Mike Maroth's last outing before surgery -- 4-0 after three innings on Thursday night, then 4-0 after two innings on Friday.
The Tigers eventually erased that deficit, only to see a 9-6 lead slip away. They survived rough performances from their 41-year-old All-Star starter and their 21-year-old relief phenom. And after all that, the win might've come down to a piece of psychological trickery from the veteran manager.
"You've just got to keep playing," Leyland said, "because you never know."
Who knows, perhaps the skipper could make a visit to the mound on a two-out, full-count pitch.
It wasn't anything Jones had seen before, or many other Tigers for that matter. As Jones tried to work his way through the top of the ninth, he has working extra against Mark Teahen with two outs and runners on first and second. He had Teahen in a 1-2 count before the Royals' most dangerous weapon this series fouled off back-to-back two-strike pitches to stay alive. A pitch in the dirt moved the count full.
"I was out of options," Jones admitted. "I'd thrown cutters, curveballs, fastballs in, fastballs away. Teahen made the adjustments. I call it drawing stuff up in the sand. You're just trying to do anything you can to keep him off your fastball."
Leyland knew that. That was his purpose when he walked out to the mound after ball three to talk to Jones. Practically speaking, though, there was no purpose at all.
"We were just hoping to put a thought in the hitter's mind that maybe we weren't going to throw a fastball," Leyland said.
Jones, of course, had no doubt in his mind that he was going to throw a fastball.
"It caught me by surprise," Jones said of the visit. "But then once he was out there, I thought, 'Wow, you're really a good manager.'"
Jones proceeded to fire a 92-mph fastball by a swinging Teahen, who had homered twice in as many nights and hadn't been retired at the plate all night.
"He just swung through a fastball," Jones (2-5) said. "I don't know why. He just missed it."
Once the Royals sent out lefty Jeremy Affeldt for the bottom of the ninth, Magglio Ordonez barely missed ending
the game ahead of Guillen. His opposite-field drive sent Emil Brown to the warning track in right field before he made a leaping catch.
Guillen came up looking for a cutter on which to make good contact. He saw a curveball on a 1-2 count and pulled it for his 11th home run of the year.
"Winning teams win," he said simply.
Winning teams also get noticed. After enough wins, they no longer catch teams by surprise.
"I think we've earned that," Jones said. "We've played pretty well to warrant that. It's not going to get any easier. All the games here on out are going to be tough."
The Royals put up a four-run second inning on Tigers starter Kenny Rogers, pitching on two days' rest following his start in Tuesday's All-Star Game. Three of those runs scored on a Teahen homer. Two innings later, after Marcus Thames' two-run triple had halved the advantage, Angel Berroa padded the lead with a fourth-inning solo homer and Brown singled in David DeJesus in the fifth.
The Tigers' game-tying rally in the sixth played out somewhat like their go-ahead rally a night earlier. With former Tiger Mark Redman knocked out of the game, Elmer Dessens induced what should've been an inning-ending ground ball. Like Teahen
on Thursday, Berroa booted the ball, allowing Chris Shelton to score the tying run.
By the next inning, it appeared fate was again smiling on the Tigers while they pulled ahead. Brandon Inge hit a hard comebacker that bounced off the mound and sailed into center field, scoring Ordonez. Monroe doubled in Guillen, then Ambiorix Burgos balked in another run.
The Tigers were up in the late innings for their bullpen, and the Royals were seemingly coming apart. A rare rough outing for rookie Joel Zumaya, however, threw a rewrite into the script. Zumaya walked two of the first four batters he faced, including Teahen with two outs, to extend the inning and bring the potential tying run to the plate.
John Buck singled into the hole to load the bases for DeJesus, who lashed a 98-mph fastball into the left-center-field gap to clear the bases and tie the game.
Welcome to life as the hunted, where beating the Tigers would be a big deal. Only the Tigers keep answering.
"If you've been watching the last two days, I think anybody in the world knows they're not an easy team to beat," Leyland said of the Royals. "I can guarantee you I don't feel comfortable playing them tomorrow."