"The goal," manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon, "is to win the division."
Detroit's 6-1 win over the White Sox Wednesday afternoon put the Tigers on the doorstep of October baseball. Once the Mariners lost at Toronto, 1-0, Wednesday night, their foot was in the door, the Tigers assured of finishing no worse than the second AL Wild Card spot.
"We're in," Ian Kinsler said. "We have an opportunity to win a World Series regardless of what happens here on out. But the goal is to win the Central. To have that assurance, to know that you're going to be in the playoffs, yeah, that's big. But that's not the goal right now.
"We still have four games left to try to win the Central, and that's what we're going to try to do."
Consider it a milepost on the Tigers' quest to take care of unfinished business from last year, when they fell to the Red Sox in a dramatic six-game AL Championship Series that still stings for most Tigers fans.
It's also a record-setter for the Tigers, whose fourth straight playoff berth sets a new franchise mark. Detroit went to three consecutive World Series from 1907 to 1909, losing all three times.
"Everybody wants to make it to the playoffs, obviously," Justin Verlander said, "but you never want to settle for a Wild Card, or just squeaking in. You want to win your division. That's the goal here. I don't think anybody's going to be overly excited just squeaking in and securing a Wild Card spot.
"There's still four games to play and we're in first place in our division, and that's the most important part."
Wednesday's win stretched the Tigers' lead in the division to two games over the Royals, who lost in Cleveland, 6-4.
Both teams have four-game series to close out the regular season. The Tigers welcome the Twins to Comerica Park, while the Royals head to Chicago for four games against the same White Sox team the Tigers beat twice in the last three days.
"Ultimately, our destiny is in our own hands," Verlander said. "If we win out, that's it. We can't focus on what anybody else is doing. It's one game at a time. You go out and do everything you can to win that game. If you don't, so be it."
Barring a Royals collapse, whichever team doesn't win the Central will take one of the two Wild Card berths and play a winner-take-all game next Tuesday on TBS. Oakland currently holds the other AL Wild Card spot.
The A's loss Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, put the Tigers two games ahead of Oakland to go with the head-to-head tiebreaker. Barring a dramatic swing, then, the Tigers would have the consolation of at least hosting a Wild Card Game if they finished second in the division.
Detroit won five out of seven from Oakland this year.
The AL Central champion will advance to the AL Division Series as the third seed, opening on the road. Most likely, the opponent would be Baltimore, currently owner of the AL's second-best record. The Tigers went 5-1 against the Orioles this year, including a three-game sweep at Camden Yards in May.