DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers are ready to admit it.
They are playing with a chip on their shoulder after being left for dead at the trading deadline.
"Absolutely," Alex Wilson said Thursday after the Tigers' 8-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals. "You've got a bunch of guys in this clubhouse who were told that they didn't belong in a pennant race, and we're out to prove something. Not our big guys, obviously, but a lot of us."
After four straight AL Central Division titles, the Tigers traded away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria in the hours before the trading deadline, then fired long-time general manager Dave Dombrowski.
After winning two of three from the Royals, Detroit is 3 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot, although the Tigers have four teams between themselves and Toronto.
"We're not that far out, and we know we've got a lot of games to play," Ian Kinsler said. "No one in this room thinks this season is over."
Kinsler finished the game in dramatic fashion, hitting a two-run homer off Ryan Madson in the ninth inning, but he was part of two earlier plays that might have been equally important.
In both the third and fifth innings, Kinsler hit ground balls to the left side of the infield that looked like inning-ending double plays. That would be nothing new for the Tigers, who came into the game having grounded into 110 double plays, 14 more than any other major-league team.
Aided by takeout slides from Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose, Kinsler was able to beat both out. Each time, Victor Martinez followed with a homer — a three-run shot in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth.
"Those were both huge plays," Kinsler said. "That's how you play the game. Tyler Collins set the tone with a big slide earlier in the game, and even though they got the double play that time, you get the second baseman hesitating. Those two guys went in hard, and I was busting it down the line, because I didn't want to end the inning and leave Victor standing on deck."
Iglesias led off the ninth with a single against Ryan Madson (1-2) before Kinsler hit a 2-0 fastball into the bullpen in left field.
"I don't know where that pitch ended up," Madson said. "It was supposed to be a sinker, but it wasn't where I wanted it."
Wilson (2-3) got the win after getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
Martinez hadn't homered since July 17 and hadn't had a multi-homer game since hitting two for Boston against Toronto on Sept. 17, 2010.
"That felt great," he said. "Not just for me, but for this whole team."
The Royals took an early 3-0 lead, fell behind 6-3 and tied it with a three-run seventh. Drew Butera led off with a homer, and Kendrys Morales had a two-run double.
"That was a nice rally," Madson said. "I wish I could have held the Tigers down and given us another crack at it."
The game was delayed for several minutes in the eighth inning when a squirrel ran around on the field. It briefly ended up in the Tigers' dugout, then raced into left field.
"Usually, I have a BB gun to deal with squirrels, but I was trying to catch this one with a trash can," Alex Avila said of the squirrel's time in the dugout. "The problem was that I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be able to lure it in there with my charm and good looks."
When the squirrel arrived, the Tigers had runners on the corners and two out, but Anthony Gose struck out after it made its way to the outfield.
"I didn't want any part of that squirrel," said Rajai Davis, who got a close encounter with it as it hung out near third base. "I just tried to stay still and not draw any attention to myself."
Royals: With a day game after a night game, Alex Gordon had a quiet day in his recovery from a groin strain. Gordon took batting practice off soft tosses Wednesday and hopes to return by the end of the month.
Tigers: Although 1B Miguel Cabrera (calf strain) was told by the team to take his time recovering from injury, now that the Tigers are out of the postseason race, manager Brad Ausmus said he thinks Cabrera could be back in the lineup by the end of the month — about two weeks later than earlier hoped.
Royals: Kansas City returns home for a weekend series with the White Sox. Edinson Volquez (10-6, 3.20) faces Chicago's John Danks (6-8, 4.80) in Friday's opener.
Tigers: Detroit remains at home for three games this weekend with Boston. Daniel Norris (2-1, 3.23), acquired in last week's David Price trade, starts on Friday against Joe Kelly (3-6, 6.11).