The Detroit Tigers are on the verge of ending a 24-year division title drought. Even with a 13 1/2-game lead, veteran manager Jim Leyland isn’t taking a first-place finish for granted.
Beginning Friday night with a magic number of one, the Tigers could be AL Central champions sometime during their game against the Oakland Athletics.
Detroit (87-63) would win its first division crown since taking the AL East in 1987 if Cleveland loses at Minnesota earlier Friday night. Should the Indians win, the Tigers would clinch by beating the A’s.
Detroit could have been the first AL team this season to punch its postseason ticket Thursday. After the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland lost, the Tigers needed a victory, but a 6-1 loss in the series opener snapped a 12-game winning streak - Detroit’s longest since 1934.
“We still have to get one more somehow,” said Leyland, who guided Detroit to the World Series in 2006 as a wild card. “It was a nice streak but that’s over and we have to finish it.”
Acquired from Seattle on July 30 to help the Tigers’ playoff push, Fister has responded by going 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts. The right-hander has surrendered two runs or fewer in six of those outings.
He held Minnesota to three hits, walked two and struck out five in seven scoreless innings of Sunday’s 2-1 victory.
“Everybody’s playing together, everybody’s playing well together and playing for one another,” Fister told the Tigers’ official website. “That’s what good ballclubs do, and that’s what we’re focusing on, playing for one another.”
Fister was 0-1 despite a 2.31 ERA in two April starts against the A’s while with the Mariners. He received two total runs of support in those outings, but has gotten 4.38 per nine innings since joining the Tigers.
Fister, who has surrendered only three homers in 51 1-3 innings since the trade, goes up against a team that displayed unexpected power Thursday.
David DeJesus(notes), Kurt Suzuki(notes) and Cliff Pennington(notes) homered for Oakland (68-82), which has won four of its last five against Detroit. The A’s rank 13th in the AL with 46 home runs at home, four more than last-place Minnesota.
“Usually you don’t get home runs here at night,” said DeJesus, who ended a 79 at-bat homerless drought with a three-run shot in the first inning.
The right-hander hasn’t pitched particularly well this month as he’s been reached for six runs and 12 hits in 10 innings while posting wins over Seattle and at Texas. Cahill has benefited from 12 combined runs of support in those outings.
He’s fared much better in his consecutive wins against the Tigers, yielding two runs over 14 1-3 innings. Facing them April 17 in Oakland, Cahill allowed one run and four hits while striking out nine over eight innings of the Athletics’ 5-1 victory.