At the conclusion of play on Wednesday, Aug. 10, the Tigers held a scant two-game lead in their division and seemed light years behind the American League's elite. Detroit was nine games behind New York, eight behind Boston and four behind Texas. At the time it seemed that, if the Tigers made the playoffs, they'd quickly be dismissed as an also-ran, unless Justin Verlander figured out a way to pitch every game.
Fast forward to Sept. 8: The Tigers have baseball's best record over the past four weeks, going 20-7 thanks to consecutive sweeps of onetime AL Central challengers Chicago and Cleveland this week. What's more, the Tigers still trail the Yankees by seven games but are 4 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and now a half-game ahead of the Rangers in the standings, though that change is not yet reflected in the Power Rankings given the quality of the competition.
It's important to note that the four-week hot stretch has included only one opponent among the AL's elite (the Rays, No. 8 in this week's Rankings) though Detroit did win three of four games on the road in that series. But even though the wins were accumulated against weaker teams -- and the Tigers are a whopping 40-21 (.656) against the rest of the AL Central this season -- they stand to benefit just the same with homefield advantage in October.
While playing either Boston or New York in the ALDS is a foregone conclusion, having a better record than the Rangers means Detroit would have an extra home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers have played .592 ball at Comerica Park and .542 everywhere else.
NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, Sept. 7.
MLB Power Rankings