Six of their final 12 games are against the Tigers, who entered Friday night's game trying to make up two games on the division-leading White Sox. The winner of the division goes to the postseason, the other likely goes home.
And along with avoiding last place, playing the spoiler certainly provides motivation, manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"You're in a race here. There's other people watching this thing and there's a lot at stake for not just this team, for the Sox, a couple of other teams and Wild Card races," he said. "Out of respect for the game you go out and give them everything you have. I wouldn't expect anything less of my team.
"That's why I like these guys. No matter what our record's been we go out there and give it our best effort and try. It's a fun group."
It started Friday night at Comerica Park, where Gardenhire was expecting nothing short of an electric ballpark with a playoff feel. He was also expecting the Tigers' best baseball.
"This atmosphere right here does lift you up a little bit," he said. "You can see the intensity on the other side and hopefully we'll rise to the occasion and get up there with them, have some fun playing baseball and make it tough on them."