This afternoon the Tigers take the field in Oakland as AL Central Division Champions, the first time the Tigers have won the Central Division, and their first division championship since 1987.
The improbable big bat belonged to Don Kelly, who made Jim Leyland look like a lineup genius, while on the mound Doug Fister was as good as advertised.
Fister continued to make Dave Dombrowski look like GM of the Year, mowing through Oakland in 8 innings with only 91 pitches. The Tigers suddenly have what looks like the best 1-2 playoff rotation in baseball: over the last month Verlander and Fister are each 5-0, with Verlander’s 2.70 ERA bested by Fister’s stunning 0.81, and both averaging almost a strikeout an inning (Verlander 9.2 K per 9 innings, Fister 8.3).
The Tigers look like they had penty of fun celebrating after the game. Jason Beck has some nice bits about how clinching the title effected Jim Leyland and Miguel Cabrera. And for those of a nostalgic bent, an old Mitch Albom column about the Tigers taking the 1987 title.
As we all wake up this morning and shake off the effects of the celebratory Stroh’s, or champagne, or Zinfandel, or celery, it would be easy to fall into wake-me-when-the-playoffs-start mode. But last night’s victory also brought the Tigers to within 3 games in the AL best record race.
Today Rick Porcello will take the mound against Gio Gonzalez, looking to stake his claim in the playoff rotation order. Porcello has improved over his last 3 starts, but goes into battle today backed by a lineup anchored by the likes of Inge, Worth, and Santos. Perhaps today’s game post photo will inspire him.
Best Record Standings:
NY Yankees 90 59 —
Detroit Tigers 88 63 3
Boston Red Sox 87 63 3 1/2
Texas Rangers 86 65 5
Player of the Pre-Game: Magglio Ordonez
Mr. September: .417 BA, 1.087 OPS, a stolen base, a 13-game hitting streak, and a famous October home run on the resume.
Today’s Champy Lineup: