SEATTLE -- For a moment, the Tigers had run and slugged their way to new life Tuesday at Safeco Field, building an eighth-inning rally on a mad dash around the bases by Ian Kinsler and a game-tying homer from J.D. Martinez. They had the makings of a comeback win that could propel them out of their midseason doldrums.
Two innings and a Kyle Seager walk-off double later, they had another loss, and another step toward the fate they don't want to ponder.
Their 5-4 defeat to the Mariners marked their ninth loss in 12 games, sending them six games under .500 for the first time since May 14 of last season. They remain 5 1/2 games out of first place in an American League Central division that nobody has grabbed to control, but they're also a half-game out of last.
They need no reminder of what's at stake. The possibility of veterans being dealt ahead of next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline is out in the open, and has been since the season began.
They're battling to stay in the race. They're trying to avoid the feeling they're running in place right now. More importantly, they're trying to avoid the decision to tear things apart in a month or so.
"I think we've still got plenty of time. I mean, we're not that far back," said Jordan Zimmermann, whose 6 2/3 quality innings kept the Tigers close enough to rally late. "It's not like we're back 15 games and pretty much out of it. We're in striking distance. We're close.
"Do I think we're going to be in the first place by the time the deadline comes? I don't know. I think we can get close, close enough to where we don't need to know, where we can hang onto everybody and make a run for this thing. But we have to start playing some better baseball, and I think everyone in here knows that. I don't think anybody's panicking by no means; we just have to play better ball."
They're pushing, they say. If they weren't, they probably wouldn't have gotten to extra innings Tuesday, not the way the game was trending. Mariners starter Ariel Miranda had recovered from solo homers in each of the first two innings to retire 11 consecutive Tigers from the third inning into the seventh. A Seager error accounted for his only baserunner in the middle innings before Kinsler drew a leadoff walk in the eighth, stole second base, then stole third and kept on going home on Dan Altavilla's wild pitch.
Whether they buy or sell, Justin Upton said, they have to fight.
"I mean, everybody in here's trying to win baseball games every single day," said Upton, who homered in the second inning. "Regardless of whether we're going to buy or sell, our job is to come here and win baseball games. There's no point in thinking about [the Trade Deadline]. Regardless of what Al Avila decides to do, we can't do anything about that. We come here, we prepare for a baseball game and we try to win a baseball game, regardless of what's being said or being written."