The AL Central title is there for the taking, but the Detroit Tigers aren’t claiming it.
They’ll get another chance to clinch the division on the final day of the regular season when they take on the Kansas City Royals on Sunday at Comerica Park.
Detroit (95-66), which is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1987, has lost four straight after a 9-6 defeat on Saturday. Its magic number to win the division was cut to one earlier in the day, though, when Minnesota lost to the Chicago White Sox.
“This is over with, you can’t bring this game back. I’m not going to be disappointed long,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I guess everybody knows that I was accurate on thing this year, I said it was going to go down to the wire.”
The Tigers and Twins have identical records, but Detroit would win the Central thanks to winning the season series with Minnesota if the teams finish tied.
The playoff-bound Tigers will clinch their first division crown since winning the 1987 AL East with a win or a Minnesota loss at home to the Chicago White Sox. If Detroit wins the division, it will have home-field advantage for a series against AL West champion Oakland.
If Detroit loses and Minnesota wins, the Tigers will have to settle for the wild card and open a division series on the road Tuesday against the AL East champion New York Yankees.
“No one is going to have a problem getting up for this game,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “It’s to win the division. I think the guys will be excited. It’s what we’ve been shooting for all year.”
The Tigers have lost five straight games just once this season, from Aug. 8-13.
Jeremy Bonderman (14-8, 3.99 ERA) will make the start for Detroit as he tries for a career-high 15th victory. If he wins, Detroit would have three 15-game winners (Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander) for the first time since Jack Morris, Walt Terrell and Frank Tanana accomplished the feat for the 1987 AL East championship club.
Bonderman is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his last three starts. He’s also the last Tigers pitcher to win—allowing an unearned run and three hits over six innings in a 4-3 victory over Toronto on Tuesday.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts against Kansas City (61-100) this season.
Kansas City has won three straight at Comerica Park after losing its first five games of the season in Detroit. The Royals improved to 3-14 against the Tigers overall in the season series.
They’ve used offensive outbursts to capture the first two games this weekend. The Royals amassed 19 hits for a 9-7 victory on Friday and followed that up with 15 more hits Saturday, including seven in a seven-run first inning.
“We had a great first inning and then we just hung on,” interim Royals manager Bill Doran said. “We knew they would come roaring back with that offense, so we were going to need every run we could get. We did enough to win.”
The left-hander, who spent his entire career in the National League before the trade, is pitching against the Tigers for the first time.
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