But there are still mountains to climb. The Tigers have been to the World Series twice in recent years and are 1-8, losing to the Cardinals in five games in 2006 and being swept last fall by the Giants. When the Tigers open the next round of the playoffs on Saturday night in Boston (8 ET on FOX), it will be their third consecutive trip to the American League Championship Series without winning Major League Baseball's ultimate prize.
"I think you're driven to get back," Dombrowski said after the Tigers defeated the A's on Thursday night, 3-0, at the O.co Coliseum to wrap up their AL Division Series in five games. "There's unfinished business in people's minds. But I think we have to be careful and Jim Leyland has talked about this all year long. You can't worry about the World Series until you get there.
"So you have to first make the postseason, which we did. We won 93 games and we won the division. We were down 2-1 in the ALDS and we came back and won. Now we have to win the ALCS and we're going up against a very tough club. You have to focus on the task at hand and we can't worry about the World Series at this point, because we have to win the ALCS."
Like the A's, who have taken the Tigers to the brink before losing in five ALDS games each of the past two years, the Red Sox are a formidable opponent. They won their Division Series in four games over the Rays after tying the Cardinals at 97-65 for the best Major League record during the regular season.
Last year, the Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS before losing to San Francisco. It's a long climb back and Dombrowski said he was very tense and on edge seated behind the Tigers' dugout as Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
"When you're in the middle of this, you're very intense, you're into every pitch," he said in the clubhouse as the usual post-victory champagne-drenched celebration buzzed around him. "Before the game I was talking to Jim and a couple of the coaches. You go to Spring Training. You get up at 5 in the morning. You play all year long and this is what you're playing to do.
"This is the culmination of all that. It's very, very intense and it's a relief to win. They've done a great job and we're not done yet, either."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.