Detroit had to hold onto a 6-0 lead on Saturday, while the White Sox fell behind big to Tampa Bay.
"I'm not going to lie about it," Leyland said. "When you look at the scoreboard and see that the White Sox are most likely going to lose, that's a game you've got to win."
If the Tigers lost, Leyland continued, "It's pretty negative for you and a pretty big boost for them. I mean, we didn't have to win this game at the beginning of the game. But at the end, we had to win it."
They nearly gave it up, but they held on for a 6-4 victory, putting Detroit two games up in the American League Central with four games to play. Any combination of three Tigers wins or White Sox losses would clinch Leyland's second consecutive division crown.
The Tigers can't clinch it Sunday, but they ensure no worse than a tie at season's end. While Detroit will send a surging Anibal Sanchez to the mound against the Twins, the White Sox will have to face David Price looking for his 20th win of the year.
A win by Price would strengthen his AL Cy Young Award case. Justin Verlander, possibly the frontrunner, doesn't care.
"I hope he wins 20," Verlander said. "I hope he wins his next start."
Saturday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Tigers (Sanchez, 9-13) at Twins (Hendriks, 1-8), 2:10 p.m. Preview >
Rays (Price, 19-5) at White Sox (Quintana, 6-5), 2:10 p.m. Preview >
If the postseason started today ...
This is how the teams would match up: Postseason Bracket »
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.
A tiebreaker game will be played to determine a division winner, even if the tied clubs are assured of participating in the postseason. If a division championship tiebreaker is necessary, the head-to-head record between the clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then the division record will be the next tiebreaker.
If two clubs are tied for the two Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then the division record will be the next tiebreaker.
2012 postseason schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 5
Division Series: Oct. 6-12
AL Championship Series: Oct. 13-21
NL Championship Series: Oct. 14-22
World Series: Oct. 24-Nov. 1