Ausmus admits playoff picture is top of mind now

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Brad  Ausmus

Detroit – His team was on another of those patented Tigers streaks – this, a good one – Saturday as Brad Ausmus acknowledged a playoff race and a dwindling regular-season schedule had slipped into a manager’s consciousness.

Ausmus at first brushed off thoughts that an old-fashioned pennant race had become part of his or his team’s life, three hours before the Tigers and Angels were to meet at Comerica Park. Ausmus said he didn’t always “look at other teams, how they’ve been doing – there’s still so much fluctuation.”

But, he conceded: “I definitely look more now. Last year, we were trying to complete a season. Now we’re coming to the field trying to extend the season.”

The Tigers were on the right side of a season see-saw Saturday as they pulled into Comerica Park. They had won five consecutive games, were 4.5 games behind first-place Cleveland, and only a half-game out of a second wild-card spot.

Ausmus can’t explain it, the streakiness. Thirteen times in 2016 the Tigers have been involved in winning or losing streaks of at least four games. Nine of those streaks have been on the plus side.

“I can’t tell you I’ve been part of a team that has had this kind of roller-coaster,” he said, speaking also of his 18 years as a big-league catcher.

Verlander dominates, Tigers roll to 5th straight win

But he was enjoying this latest ride, which has featured the Tigers’ typical winning blend of strong starting pitching, and batting-order artillery. Justin Upton’s late-August surge – four home runs and a .417 average in his last six games -- has been a big part of the past week’s spurt.

The Tigers were hoping Saturday evening to fight off heavy local rain and keep their string going, while further complicating life for the Angels, who are 54-74 and, after a sweep of the Twins, the second consecutive last-place team the Tigers have faced.

The Tigers had a helpful friend rejoin their lineup Saturday: shortstop Jose Iglesias, who had missed the past two weeks with a bad hamstring.

Michael Fulmer was to start for the Tigers against Angels left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.

Twitter @Lynn_Henning