DETROIT -- For the first time since July 23, the Tigers own first place in the American League Central all by themselves. They finally have a reason for a magic number, and it's down to seven.
With the White Sox welcoming the Rays to town on a seven-game winning streak, that number has a chance to drop in a hurry. But the Tigers' focus right now is on their own side.
"We're playing pretty good baseball right now," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're playing hard, the way we should be."
The Tigers' clubhouse had emptied long before Indians closer Chris Perez finished off the White Sox in the ninth inning for Chicago's seventh loss in its last eight games. The Tigers haven't exactly surged in that same stretch, going 5-3, but they've done enough to gain four games in the standings.
Detroit will try to complete a four-game series sweep of the Royals on Thursday afternoon, hours before the White Sox encounter Rays right-hander James Shields. If the Tigers' winning streak and White Sox losing streak continue into the weekend, the soonest Detroit could clinch would be Sunday in Minnesota.
Thursday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Royals (Mendoza, 8-9) at Tigers (Fister, 10-9), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
Rays (Shields, 15-9) at White Sox (Peavy, 11-12), 8:10 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.
Tiebreaker rules »
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
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.