Even so, Wednesday's 11-3 win over the Indians might've been just what the Tigers needed.
They scored four first-inning runs and added on with tallies in four of the next five innings. Detroit got enough out of rookie starter Rick Porcello to keep a comfortable lead through five innings, then take him out. The Tigers finished out the game without having to bring in any of their late-inning arms, keeping closer Fernando Rodney and setup men Brandon Lyon and Bobby Seay rested for Thursday's series finale.
Most important, after so many close, low-scoring games lately, they got into the late innings without plenty of runs and not much suspense. Whether it was a statement for the second-place Twins, who remained 2 1/2 games back with a win of their own, is debatable. It was certainly a statement for themselves.
"For the offense, it's pretty good," said Carlos Guillen, whose two home runs played a big role in the add-on runs. "Now we've got to be consistent. We have to do the same thing."
If Guillen can do anywhere near the same thing the rest of the way that he did Wednesday, the Tigers will be happy. He homered from both sides of the plate for the first time since 2006, but it was his home run and double from the right side that prompted so much encouragement.
After struggling for so long to get a right-handed swing ready for a game, then trying it out in a spot situation last week, Guillen made it look like he hadn't missed much time with it. After teeing off from the left side on Justin Masterson's hanging sinker in the third inning, he was set to lead off the fifth when lefty Mike Gosling entered in relief.
Much like he did last week against Royals lefty Bruce Chen, Guillen convinced manager Jim Leyland to keep him in the game and switched to the right side. He then turned on a Gosling fastball and sent it over the out-of-town scoreboard in left for his 11th homer in exactly two months since coming off the disabled list with right shoulder soreness.
An inning later, he chased Gosling with a line-drive double that sailed over center fielder Trevor Crowe to drive in another run and put the Tigers into double digits.
"That was good," Leyland said. "That was real good."
Guillen is going just as much on feeling as he is on results.
"I feel good. That's the most important thing," he said.
In between Guillen's home runs was an estimated 440-foot drive from Miguel Cabrera into the left-field bleachers in Masterson's fourth and final inning. Before that, four straight base hits from the heart of Detroit's order keyed the first-inning rally.
"He threw hard," Ramon Santiago said, "but you could see his ball good. You have to take advantage when the pitcher makes mistakes, and I think we did in the first inning. Then later, we kept adding on."
Once Brandon Inge greeted Jose Veras with an RBI single in the sixth, every starter in Detroit's lineup had a base hit. Guillen reached base in all four of his at-bats, though one was on an Andy Marte error. The Tigers finished with as many runs as they scored in their previous four games combined.
"I think the last series, we came out and had a bunch of close games," said Porcello. "Not many runs were being scored on either side. This was a nice game for us to come out there and put some runs up."
Five days earlier, Porcello lost a 3-0 shutout to the Twins at the Metrodome. Thanks to the first-inning rally, he took the mound Wednesday with a four-run lead to protect. He wasn't dominant in doing so, but he overcame some command issues to do it.
Porcello gave back a run in the first inning, including a single off his right hip, but stranded another run at third base with a fielder's choice. He gave up a pair of two-out singles and a walk to load the bases for Asdrubal Cabrera, arguably Cleveland's top hitter for most of the year, but a first-pitch sinker got a groundout to second.
From there, Porcello (14-9) scattered two singles and a walk before leaving after five innings. He improved to 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA over 11 starts since the beginning of August, scattering 56 hits over 61 1/3 innings.
"He wasn't real sharp," Leyland said, "but he got through it."
So, too, did Leyland. He dreads games like these sometimes because he questions when to take his regulars out of a game, or get a pitcher some work who needs it. He sent out Jeremy Bonderman for the ninth inning on Wednesday, for example, then replaced him after back-to-back one-out walks and let Fu-Te Ni finish out the game.
"I don't like to do that stuff when I've got a big lead, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "I'd rather do it when I'm way behind."
Nonetheless, the Tigers could use this.
"No doubt about it," Santiago said. "We needed a game like that to make the offense go. We have to feel confident we can win an easy game. We have to keep playing and try to fight until the end, keep the pressure on the pitcher."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.