I am now, officially, worried about the Tigers. I'm sure that concerns the Tigers, that I'm losing sleep over their situation. I'm sure all the good, nail-biting fans in Motown really want to hear that I feel their pain too.
But somebody outside of Detroit has to worry. I mean, this four-game series against the Twins in Minneapolis that starts Thursday is huger than huge. It's a season-maker. Or a season-breaker. The damn Twins are only four back, for crying out loud. And the White Sox are only 4½ behind.
The Tigers suddenly are losing games that they won so easily just a month ago. They're absolutely painful to watch at the plate. They're a little beat up, and their starters ... they're still good, aren't they, the starters?
Are the Tigers about to choke away the postseason?
Can things get any worse?
1. Is that an apple in your throat?
You know the pressure of a pennant race is getting to the Tigers when the Tigers admit that the pressure is getting to them.
"I think it's good to be nervous. And I am," manager Jim Leyland told reporters. "I think it's bad to be scared, and I'm not. There's a major difference."
Just a month ago the Tigers had a seemingly insurmountable 10-game lead in the American League Central. Since then they are 9-19.
They just lost a series to the Mariners. They've won exactly one series in the last month's worth of games, when they took two out of three in Boston. Their pitching is starting to fray, their hitters are slumping and there are signs that the Tigers are beginning to grasp at straws.
On Wednesday, Leyland asked his coaches for some dummy lineups, and his guys gave him six to choose from. It's not a patently bad idea. New thinking always should be welcome.
But a confident team doesn't do that. Plus, it sure would have been better if the lineup had actually worked.
After the loss Wednesday to Seattle, the Tigers came back into the clubhouse to learn that popular DH Dmitri Young had been released for "performance reasons." That may or may not be the case -- it sure seems awfully fishy -- but Young was hitting .292 with a .504 slugging percentage since his comeback from alcohol rehab in July. If the whole team was hitting that way, nobody would be nervous. Me included.
The Tigers insist that they have things under control, that they're approaching their jobs as they always have, that this is just a blip. But ...
"It would be stupid to say we don't feel the pressure," backup catcher Vance Wilson told TheDetroit News, "because that would be a lie."
2. Where did the middle infield go?
Second baseman Placido Polanco, who fit nicely into the No. 2 slot in the lineup, knocked out his shoulder during the series win in Boston on Aug. 15. He won't be back until later this month. And shortstop Carlos Guillen has been out since last weekend after straining a hamstring.