Riding a seven-game win streak into Detroit, the Chicago White Sox had a chance to make a statement.
Instead, the Tigers made a statement of their own.
The struggling Tigers were 11 games behind their surging rivals, and they had yet to play as a fluid team. The pitching and defense were a mess, and the offense was very inconsistent. However, they found the right time to put it all together.
In the series against Chicago, Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, and Kenny Rogers combined to allow five runs in 23.1 innings, while the bullpen, though rarely needed, was solid.
More importantly, Miguel Cabrera caught fire. He went 5-11 in the three games, with a series-stamping bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off homer. It's the big hit he needed. As Tigers' broadcaster Rod Allen put it, "This could be his coming out party."
And it could be the beginning of the Tigers' reemergence as contenders.
Manager Jim Leyland's shift of Carlos Guillen to third base and Miguel Cabrera to first seems to be paying off. The defense is making less errors, and recent call-ups such as Brent Clevlen have energized the field. His strong arm has slowed opposing teams from taking the extra base.
Similar to the consistency Armando Galarraga brought to the rotation, Freddy Dolsi has done the same for the bullpen. His power arm has cut short opposing rallies, and he has filled the void in the set-up role created by injuries.
But the Tigers can expect Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, keys to the 2006 World Series team, to return soon. Both are on rehab assignments, and they will probably be back in the next two weeks to further solidify the bullpen.
If Cabrera is starting to turn it up, the pitching is sparking, and the bullpen is infused with Zumaya's heat, this team could get very hot.