Hours later, rookie Chris Bassitt and the White Sox proved the manager right.
Bassitt pitched into the eighth inning for his first major league win, Tyler Flowers hit a two-run homer and Chicago slowed Detroit's playoff push with a 2-0 victory.
"This is competitive athletics, and no one is just going to hand you a game," Ausmus said. "I talked about it before the game — those guys in the other clubhouse are playing for their futures, and they are playing to win, because that's what you do in this league. We're going to have to win these last games on our own."
Detroit is one game ahead of the second-place Royals, who beat Cleveland 2-0 in their regularly scheduled game Monday night. Hours earlier, the Indians finished off a victory in a suspended game against Kansas City.
The loss assured Detroit would start a division series on the road, even if it wins the AL Central.
"We've got six games left, and we've got control of our fate," reliever Joba Chamberlain said. "That's all you can ask for at this point. If we do our jobs, we'll win the division."
The game turned into an unexpected pitchers' duel between Bassitt and fellow rookie Kyle Lobstein. Both were making their fifth career start, but they looked like aces in the middle of a pennant race.
Bassitt (1-1) went 7 2-3 innings and pitched out of two early jams in front of about 100 family members and friends.
"The first win always means a lot, but being so close to home and having my friends and family here makes it even better," said Bassitt, who grew up in Curtice, Ohio, about an hour south of Comerica Park. "Some of my friends said they were hoping that I'd get a no-decision in a Tigers win, though."
Bassitt, who lost to the Tigers on Aug. 30, gave up six hits, walked one batter — the last one he faced — and struck out Alex Avila three times but no one else. Jake Petricka got four outs for his 14th save.
"He located his pitches tonight, which he didn't really do against us the first time," Ian Kinsler said. "Every pitcher in this league is tough when they can locate their stuff."
Lobstein (1-1) was trying for his second victory, but didn't get any offensive support. He allowed two runs on five hits and a walk in a career-best seven innings.
Chicago took a 2-0 lead with a two-out rally in the second. Carlos Sanchez hit a ground-rule double to left-center and, on the next pitch, Flowers lined a homer into the White Sox bullpen.
"I was looking for something out over the plate," Flowers said. "If it was a fastball, I wanted to think right-center, and if it was an off-speed pitch, I wanted to hit it to left. That's what happened."
Detroit had a pair of early threats, but Kinsler was caught stealing in the first inning — leaving the bases empty for Miguel Cabrera's 50th double. Right fielder Avisail Garcia robbed Cabrera of a probable RBI double with a sliding catch in the third.
"He showed some composure out there, and he competed. That was a nice little outing for him," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of his young pitcher.
Cabrera hit another ball hard off Bassitt in the eighth, but his line drive was right at Moises Sierra in left. Victor Martinez drew a walk, and Petricka came in to strike out J.D. Martinez.
"That last at-bat for Cabrera, I just didn't want to walk him," Bassitt said. "I was thinking that he might hit one off the scoreboard, but I'm not going to walk him. Luckily, he hit it right at somebody."
White Sox: OF Adam Eaton, who has missed the last two games for personal reasons, is expected to join the team in time for Tuesday's game in Detroit.
Tigers: Avila (concussion) was a late addition to the lineup after the team was able to get his paperwork approved by Major League Baseball about 45 minutes before the first pitch. ... Detroit will activate RHP Anibal Sanchez (pectoral strain) from the disabled list Tuesday, and he will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the season.
Detroit will try to even the series behind LHP David Price (14-12, 3.37 ERA). Scott Carroll (5-10, 5.01) goes for the White Sox.
The Tigers will honor retiring White Sox slugger Paul Konerko before Tuesday's game. Konerko has homered 18 times at Comerica Park, one fewer than David Ortiz for the most by a visiting player, and his 206 total bases are 63 more than second-place Justin Morneau.
Konerko also homered off Justin Thompson at Tiger Stadium in 1999, a game caught by Ausmus.
"I remember Paul when he came up with the Dodgers, but you obviously remember him most in Chicago," Ausmus said. "He's had a lot of great years with the White Sox, and I think he'll get a lot of Hall of Fame votes in a few years."
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