It was July 19th, 2007. Things were looking great for the Tigers. Detroit was playing their second series after the All Star break. Heading into that break the Tigers had won 5 in a row, 2 against the Indians and a sweep of the Red Sox. After the break they split a 4 game set in Seattle and then pulled off an improbable sweep of the the Twins in the Metrodome. They won 3 straight 1 run games against Minnesota and found themselves 21 games above .500. Talk about momentum. The big series was followed up with a 4-12 stretch.
Today the Tigers are once again heading into Minnesota for a 3 game set. It is a big, exciting, mid summer series. But the season is too long and it is too early for this series to mean that much – even if it results in a sweep for either team.
If things go poorly they could find themselves a half game out of first place, a perch they’ve held since May 9th. It would be a disappointing result to be sure, but being within a half game of the division lead before the All Star Break isn’t that bad of a worst-case scenario.
We’ve seen the Tigers in past years surging early in the season only to later collapse. We’ve seen it this year where the team had “serious issues” only to reel off 7 wins in a row, and then 2 drop back to back series. Two weeks ago the White Sox were done and playing “must-win” games against the Tigers. Now they are in 2nd place. This is the type of rollercoastering that happens over the span of a couple weeks, let alone over the course of a season.
If the Tigers were on the brink of contention a week before the trade deadline (like when they went to Seattle in 2005) maybe it takes on more importance. If it is September and there is limited time to make up ground it becomes huge. Yes, every game is important because you can look back at the end of the season when your team is a game short and say “see, if we’d just won one more game…” But there are are typically at least a dozen games that are given away during a season and a dozen more that are “stolen". These are just 3 of 162.
Games against division rivals always take on more importance, it’s your team’s only chance to directly put L’s in their standings. With both teams involved in the hunt for the division and it falling on a holiday weekend, the games should be exciting and it should provide for a great “playoff like” atmosphere. But it ain’t the playoffs because both the winner and loser still have 90 more games to go.