"And we know what happened at the end," Indians closer Chris Perez said.
The Tribe faded down the stretch last summer due to injuries and other factors, while the Tigers made their push and ran away with the 2011 division title. While there is no way of knowing what will transpire in the coming months, the Indians do believe they are in a better position this season compared to a year ago at the same point.
Entering Wednesday's game against Detroit, Cleveland was 24-18 with a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place White Sox. The Tigers (20-22) resided in third place, four games back of the Indians. Through May 22 last season, the Tribe was 29-15, with a seven-game lead over the second-place Tigers (23-23).
The difference this year is the Indians do not feel they have hit their stride yet.
"I felt last year at this point we had played our best baseball," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You couldn't play any better than the way we played the first 45 games. Unfortunately, we had some guys go down. But I still don't think we have played our best baseball [this year].
"Last year, it was just a different story. We couldn't do anything wrong, especially at home for the first 45 games."
The players inside Cleveland's clubhouse feel the same.
"We're for real. It's not a fluke," Perez said. "The team over there wants to win just as bad as we do, and we're coming out on top more times than not. It's been said a couple times, but we're not playing our best ball yet. ... We feel like our best ball is still ahead of us, which is what you want."