For the first time ever, the Detroit Tigers have won the American League’s Central Division.
Detroit bested the Oakland Athletics 3-1 behind an excellent Doug Fister pitching performance. Fister held the A’s to just one run over eight innings. An inning later, the Tigers celebrated their milestone victory. The Twins had a chance earlier in the evening to help Detroit lock up the division win, as they hosted the second place Cleveland Indians, who were one game away from elimination. But Cleveland held on to beat the Twins 7-6, thanks in part to a late home run by Jim Thome. As a result, the Tigers had to wait until after their West Coast game to celebrate.
A year ago at this time, the Twins were the ones looking forward to a postseason berth. On September 16, 2010, the Twins completed a three game sweep of the second place White Sox with an 8-5 win. Five days later, they clinched the division. This year, the Twins were reduced to the role of spoiler, powerless to do anything except try to eliminate the second place Indians.
With a potent offensive attack featuring sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the Tigers will make a formiddable foe for any playoff opponent. But their most poweful weapon is on the mound. Ace Justin Verlander is the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award with a 2.36 ERA, 23 wins and 238 so far. No team will look forward to the opportunity to face Verlander twice in a best-of-5 series.
2011 will be Verlander’s second postseason appearance, and his first as a division winner.
After finishing under .500 for their first eight years of Central Division play, the Tigers looked sure to win the division in 2006. Though Detroit led the division almost the entire year, they lost out to the Twins on the season’s final day. The Tigers settled for the Wild Card that year, though that was enough to net them a World Series appearance. In 2009, Detroit had another excellent opportunity for a division title, holding a seven game lead with less than a month to play. Again, though, the Twins surged and caught the Tigers by the toe, winning the division in a thrilling Game 163 battle. This year, though, the Twins proved no match for their feline rivals, and Detroit avoided a second half collapse.
For more coverage and analysis of the Tigers’ playoff run, check out our Fansided sister site, Motor City Bengals.