Important? For sure.
But critical? Too early for that.
It is what it is, as Tigers manager Jim Leyland likes to say, and what it is is a three-game series between the visiting first-place Chicago White Sox and second-place Detroit.
The distance between them entering the series, during which the calendar will roll over from August to September, is three games.
Both teams have set up their rotations so their top three pitchers will be working each of the games, so a 2-1 outcome is likely in one direction or the other.
If Detroit sweeps Chicago, it would merely deadlock the top of the AL Central. If the White Sox sweep the Tigers, well, Detroit is going to have to dig up a Pinocchio video so it can watch Jiminy Cricket sing "When You Wish Upon A Star."
"We've got to get back to our approach," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. "We've got to go out there and battle. It ain't gonna get any easier. We have to go home for a big series, and we'd better bring it or we could fall out of it real quick."
The Kansas City Royals completed a sweep of Detroit on Thursday night, eking out a 2-1 decision that followed a 1-0 win that followed a 9-8 victory. The Tigers went 17 straight innings without scoring in the series, from Jhonny Peralta's eighth-inning home run in the first game to Peralta's RBI single in the eighth inning of the last game.
"We scattered a lot of hits," manager Jim Leyland said, "but couldn't do anything with it. Still, we had a chance at the end and the right guy (Miguel Cabrera) up there."
Cabrera, though, ripped a hard grounder to second base that was turned into a game-ending double play. Cabrera slowed down about halfway down the first base line, then put on a spurt at the end. It may have been Cabrera's sore ankle, or he may have been misled because Andy Dirks barreled into second and the shortstop had to jump over him before throwing, landing on his feet prior to making a snap throw to first that nipped Cabrera by a shoelace.
"We just haven't been able to hit a double with guys on," Leyland said. "(Runners on) first and second, we don't get that gapper. We're not getting it right now. We're very capable of doing it, but we just haven't done it. That's the way it is."
Laird said, "No excuses. We're getting guys on third base and not getting runs in. We're getting leadoff doubles and not getting guys over and not getting them in. When you don't get 'em over and get 'em in, you're not going to win many games."
That, for those who keep score, was a hidden reference to Delmon Young following Prince Fielder's leadoff double in the sixth by hitting a sharp grounder down the third base line that was turned into an out at first. The next two Detroit hitters flied out to center (possible sacrifice fly with Fielder on third) and a groundout to second.
"We're a good team," Leyland said of the upcoming series. "I expect us to play well."