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Tigers face harsh realities of what lies ahead

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) reacts after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning.

Detroit — There was no closed door meeting, no "Come-to-Jesus" speech. Nobody had to say anything.

"Everybody knows the reality," Victor Martinez said. "We are nine games behind."

What there was, as the Tigers prepared to start their second-half climb, was a grim resolve.

"We've backed ourselves into a little bit of a corner, so we're going to have to come out swinging," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But there are a lot of teams jumbled up in the .500 winning percentage bracket, so to speak. We just have to play better, from start to finish. We have to win more games."

Aumsus said he still hasn't set his pitching rotation beyond this series with the Orioles — Anibal Sanchez Friday, David Price Saturday and Justin Verlander Sunday.

He said Alfredo Simon would likely be the fourth starter, but "it hasn't been set in stone." There was no guarantee that Shane Greene would be the fifth starter going forward.

"It's a big story now -- it's a big deal that we haven't played well and we're in third place," Alex Avila said. "But I think it will be a much bigger story if we were able to come back."

The Tigers are taking heart from the past couple of seasons when the Twins and Royals have overcome similar deficits in a shorter span of time. And, to a man, the focus point was on winning the AL Central, not the second wild card.

"To be honest with you, this is the first time I am hearing wild card," Martinez said. "I'm still shooting for the Central, and I think everybody in here feels the same."

Avila agreed.

"Your focus has to be on the division title," he said. "You do what you can there and the wild card will take care of itself. I am not thinking 3.5 games behind (for the second wild card), I am thinking we are down nine games and we need to try and make up as much of that as possible."

The Tigers still have 12 games left with the Royals and six with the Twins.

"It's definitely been a disappointing first half," Avila said. "But what we are trying to do, it's been done before. We have the guys to do it. There is enough time to do it. We just have to make sure we play well and we play consistently."

Avila was asked if the looming July 31 trade deadline added to the team's urgency.

"We're in third place," he said. "There isn't any more motivation needed than where we are and where we put ourselves. That (buyers or sellers) none of our concern. Nobody in this clubhouse can control that. If we play well, that will take care of itself."

Twitter @cmccosky