A day later, after the Tigers waited out nearly five hours of rain delays for a 2-0 win over the Yankees to take the series, that mindset had a reinforcement.
They knew the main reason they waited so long to finish the game -- the second of the two delays lasted over three hours -- was the potential playoff-race implications for the Yankees, who trailed, 2-0, at the beginning of the second delay in the eighth inning. The Tigers not only held on, they made it relatively uneventful.
"Gotta win series," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We were able to win series. Gotta keep doing that. Chip away."
That has been Ausmus' message for over a month, well before the Tigers traded J.D. Martinez two weeks ago and then Justin Wilson and Alex Avila on Monday. He doesn't want his team looking at standings so much as looking at series, taking a short view.
They've taken back-to-back series against playoff contenders since being swept by the Royals last week at Comerica Park.
"We just took a series against the Astros, the team with the best record in the AL," Nicholas Castellanos said, referring to last weekend, "and we came in here and took a series against New York. I mean, we're down, but we're not out."
This series was particularly meaningful, considering it began with the Tigers bidding farewell to Wilson and Avila.
"Obviously, we traded a couple key parts away, and everyone on the outside thinks we're folding up and calling it a season," said Jordan Zimmermann, whose seven shutout innings won the rubber game Wednesday. "But we're still fighting and we're going to try to win as many series as we can.
"Who knows what's going to happen? If we keep playing well and winning ballgames -- we're quite a ways back, but it's not like we're really out of it, 20 games back or something. We've still got a fighting chance and we play Cleveland a few more times."
That doesn't mean the Tigers believe they're in the thick of contention. They know the chances of getting back into the race are long. Though they're 6 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race, they also have seven teams between them and the two Wild Card holders. More trades could be coming, depending on the August waiver process.
• Source: Verlander placed on revocable waivers
That's not the point for them so much as the mentality. No matter how many games back, there's a professionalism involved. They'd rather take the series view and see where they fall at the end than linger on what has already happened.
"We've got a long season ahead of us still," closer Shane Greene said. "We're going to show up to the field every day and try to get a W. You guys talk about all this stuff about the season's over and we sold everybody, but we're here to win. If you're not, you're not going to show up tomorrow. You get here every day, you get your work in, and at game time, you start competing and try to get a W."