Detroit — Tigers pitcher Kyle Lobstein insists he doesn't expect anything to interfere with his sleep patterns Friday night.
"No, it shouldn't," he said. "I don't expect it to."
Lobstein said that before the Tigers were whacked by the Twins, 11-4, Friday and before Kansas City beat Chicago to cut the Tigers' lead in the American League Central to one game. He said that when there was a chance his start Saturday could have been in the hangover game, the game after the Tigers clinched and celebrated their fourth straight division title.
That is not the case now. Lobstein, with just over a month of major-league service time under his belt, will be making the most crucial start of his life.
"With a young guy, if I said anything to him, it might make him more nervous," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I am just going to leave him alone."
The Tigers' magic number to clinch is still two, so Lobstein could be pitching the title-clinching game. Or, he could pitch the game that leads to a showdown, do-or-die situation Sunday.
"Honestly, it's felt like any other start for me," Lobstein said. "I haven't really put any added pressure on it. Obviously, you know what's at stake, what your goal is and what you are shooting for. But I feel like I can use that to my advantage to help me focus in and stay focused throughout."
That's a pretty calm outlook for a 25-year-old with five major-league starts under his belt. The most pressure-filled game he's pitched in to date came in 2012, when he was pitching for Montgomery, Tampa Bay's Double-A affiliate.
"It was the first game of the (Southern League) playoffs against Mobile," he remembered. "We ended up winning, so…"
That one was a very typical Lobstein outing. He allowed one run and struck out seven over six innings and didn't factor in the decision.
He has allowed two runs or less in four of his five starts for the Tigers and is coming off a seven-inning stint against the White Sox where he allowed two runs on five hits, though he wound up on the bad end of a 2-0 score.
"Lobber has thrown well," Ausmus said. "He's been the most consistent guy we've had, quite frankly."
So, no trepidation about giving him the ball in a potential clinching game?
"He has pitched well for us, but again, Lobstein is our starter tomorrow; there's not a lot of options going on right now."
Rick Porcello, who got roughed up by the Twins on Friday, was asked what advice he'd give Lobstein.
"Just keep doing what you've been doing," Porcello said. "He's been throwing the ball great."
Lobstein is young, but he's intelligent and he has a good grasp of his capabilities. He is not hurting for confidence right now.
"With success comes confidence, at any level," Lobstein said. "At the same time, you believe in your stuff and you have confidence in the first place. Usually success comes from that."
He made his major-league debut against the Twins, in a relief appearance back on Aug. 23. He allowed three runs on four hits in 5.2 innings.
"There are pros and cons to facing a team for the first time and facing a team many times," he said. "It always comes down to execution. That's what going to play in any game. You can see a guy a hundred times and get him out 90 percent of the time, but if you don't execute your pitches, that is not going to continue."
Lobstein isn't being asked to steal a win; he's being asked to do what he's done the last month – just keep the Tigers in the game, give them a chance to win it.
"We have to find a way to win, regardless," Ausmus said. "We have two games to sew this thing up. Right now we are on top. It's in our hands. We have to do it."