September 17, 2011
No collapse this time. No agonizing 163rd game was required. No wild card spot will be reluctantly accepted. The Detroit Tigers will finish in first place.
The Tigers surged to their first division title in 24 seasons, winning 13 of 14 games to put the rest of the AL Central away, and capped their charge with a 3-1 victory Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.
Though the Phillies already have clinched a spot in the playofs, the Tigers became the first team this season to celebrate a division title. How many predicted that before the season?
Doug Fister(notes), continuing his personal dominance since coming over from the Mariners in a trade, kept the A's in check for eight innings. Jose Valverde(notes), the Excitable Big Potato, closed for his 45th save in as many chances. Brandon Inge(notes), a veteran infielder who was a big part of the 2006 World Series team but was sent to the minors earlier this season, handled the final out on a grounder.
"I hope you're proud of us tonight."
He turned away from cameras and resumed smoking his victory cigar.
The Tigers of 1987 were Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris, Darrell Evans and Sparky Anderson. Aging remnants of a golden era in the team's history, who sneaked past the gagging Toronto Blue Jays to win the AL East — back when it wasn't a given that you'd have to go through New York or Boston.
These Tigers could lose in the first round, as the '87 team did to Minnesota, but with the no-hit stuff of Justin Verlander(notes), along with the scary slugging potential of Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Victor Martinez(notes) on their side, assuming a postseason flop would be a mistake.
Such worries are for another time. For now, the Tigers celebrate. While wearing these awful caps.
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