Minneapolis — Brad Ausmus acknowledged it before the game, however begrudgingly.
It’s getting on now-or-never time for the Tigers.
“Just win today,” he said. “That’s how you approach it. But if you are looking at the big picture, we have to start winning on a regular basis. But I am not going to get caught up in probabilities and percentages. It’s a waste of time.
“Just win today.”
They won. Convincingly, pounding out 14 hits in an 8-3 over the Minnesota Twins on a drizzly Tuesday night. But they are still 6.5 games behind the Indians in the Central Division and three games out of the second wild-card spot.
“There is nothing we can do; we can’t get those other games back,” said Victor Martinez, who had three hits including his 23rd home run. “We just have to keep playing and see what happens. We have to keep playing better baseball.”
Miguel Cabrera had three hits. Justin Upton followed up his two-homer day Sunday with two more hits. Cameron Maybin knocked in three runs and Erick Aybar hit his first homer with the Tigers.
Anibal Sanchez (7-12) was the beneficiary of all that offense. He grinded through seven innings, allowing three runs and six hits. It was his third quality start in his last four.
“That’s good,” Martinez said of Sanchez. “Definitely he’s a big part of this team. We need everybody to do their part, but especially him. It’s really been a tough year for him. It’s good to see him back and pitching well.”
The Tigers trailed twice early, 2-1 and then 3-2 after Brian Dozier bashed his career-high 29th home run off Sanchez in the bottom of the fifth inning.
But that was erased with three runs in the top of the sixth. It was a most unconventional rally, capped with another clutch hit by Maybin, who has now knocked in five runs in two games since returning from the disabled list.
And that left thumb is still causing him pain, which is partly why Ausmus batted him ninth — he got one fewer at-bat than had he batted second.
“Oh, it don’t matter,” Maybin said. “It’s going to be as worse as you make it. We’ve got a lot of important games coming up, and I just feel I need to be in the lineup, whether I’m 100 percent or not.
“It’s tough having a thumb issue. But it is what it is. I just try not to think about it.”
Martinez started the sixth with a single. He went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a single by J.D. Martinez and scored on another wild pitch.
Upton walked to end Twins starter Kyle Gibson’s night.
Michael Tonkin entered and threw the third wild pitch of the inning, moving J.D. Martinez to third and Upton to second.
It was a 3-3 game at that time, but it looked like Tonkin was going to pitch out of the jam. Casey McGehee hit a fly ball to center field, seemingly deep enough to score Martinez, but he stopped and went back to third.
Third-base coach Dave Clark told him to hold up. Manager Brad Ausmus admitted afterwards that was being too cautious.
“I think probably if we did it over, we would send him,” Ausmus said.
James McCann then lined out for the second out. But Maybin, who walked to force in a run in the second inning and walked and scored another in the fifth, lashed a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-3.
“Again, not trying to do too much,” Maybin said. “My approach is always the same. I’m always trying to shoot that four hole and get my hits. I’ve taken pride, like last year, not really changing my approach, no matter what the situation is. Base hits up the middle cure every situation.”
They certainly did on this night.
The Tigers put the game away with the long ball in the seventh. Aybar launched one deep into the seats in right field. Then after a hustle double by Cabrera, Victor Martinez hit one nearly in the same spot.
The Tigers aren’t wasting energy on the distance they have to make up in the two playoff races. There isn’t a lot of scoreboard watching going on. Just try to win each night and add them up at the end.
“This season we've had a lot of ups and downs with the wins and losses and with the injuries, you name it,” McCann said. “But it's who gets hot at the right time. Hopefully we continue to build momentum and we do get hot at the right time.”