Yahoo! Sports: AL Wild Card: Twins or Tigers?
The Detroit Tigers have a chance to do some more celebrating before beginning postseason play.
After clinching their first playoff berth in 19 years, the Tigers look to maintain their slim lead in the AL Central when they begin a three-game series Tuesday with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Detroit (94-62) clinched its first playoff berth in 19 years Sunday with an 11-4 win over the Kansas City Royals, and the team celebrated as if it just won the World Series.
The Tigers, who had Monday off, have wrapped up at least a wild-card spot. They enter the final week of the regular season with a one-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central with six to play. And they are tied with the New York Yankees for the majors’ best record.
“When I look back, I say, ‘Wow, look at what we’ve done,”’ Detroit pitcher Nate Robertson said. “But there will be time for that kind of reflecting later on. Right now, we’re focused on finishing this regular season strong and going into the playoffs to make some noise.”
Detroit seems to have a good shot at maintaining its lead during this season-closing homestand. The Tigers close the season with a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals—who own baseball’s worst record. Detroit is 2-1 against Toronto this season and 14-1 against Kansas City.
“Something has happened, we’ve taken a few steps, but we’re not satisfied. We’re trying to bring this home for Mr. (Mike) Ilitch,” said Leyland, referring to the team owner. “We’ve taken the first leg of it, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Detroit will start Jeremy Bonderman (13-8, 4.11 ERA), who has won two straight starts after losing his previous four decisions. The right-hander gave up two runs and five hits in six innings to earn a win in a 6-2 victory Wednesday over the Chicago White Sox.
Bonderman allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in a 10-5 loss June 9 to the Blue Jays. He is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance lifetime against them.
Toronto (83-73) will counter with Josh Towers (1-10, 8.84 ERA), who is making his 15th start of the season after two straight relief appearances. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 9.61 ERA in his last six appearances. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief in a 7-1 loss Friday to the Boston Red Sox.
This will be Towers’ first appearance against Detroit this season. He is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Tigers.
Alex Rios and Bengie Molina homered for the Blue Jays, who are one-half game ahead of Boston. Toronto has finished third in the AL East seven of the past eight years, the exception being a last-place finish in 2004.
“A lot of guys are taking a lot of pride in this, trying to finish ahead of the Red Sox,” Marcum said. “Put our name No. 2 behind the Yankees and see what we can do next year.”
Center fielder Vernon Wells said he didn’t think he played his last home game for the Blue Jays. Wells, who is eligible for free agency after next season, could be traded if the team is unable to sign him to an extension this offseason.
“I don’t think it’s going to be,” Wells said. “I’ve had a great five years here and I hope to have more.”