The Detroit Tigers have clinched the AL Central, but there’s still work to be done with a chance to finish with the league’s best record.
Their pursuit of home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, however, may take a break for one day.
After securing a playoff berth, the Tigers could be a little worn out and might use a makeshift lineup when they face the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.
Detroit (88-63) won its first division title since capturing the AL East in 1987 with Friday’s 3-1 win over the A’s. Wilson Betemit(notes) hit a go-ahead triple in the sixth inning and Don Kelly(notes) hit a solo home run in the seventh for the Tigers, who are returning to the playoffs for the first time since winning the wild card in 2006 and losing to St. Louis in the World Series.
One month ago on Aug. 17, the Tigers had a two-game lead over second-place Cleveland, but by winning 23 of 28 since they emphatically pulled away from the Indians.
“We were fortunate, because we were the team this year that met the challenge,” Jim Leyland said. “We were almost spotless.”
Although Detroit, winner of 13 of 14, is three games back of AL East-leading New York with 11 to play, there’s a possibility Leyland could start some of his reserves in this game. His team did plenty of celebrating following Friday’s win and with a day game Saturday, the manager could decide to rest several regulars.
Against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, Porcello gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 14-4 win. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA in his last four starts after going 0-2 with an 11.48 ERA in his previous three.
Porcello, one victory shy of a career high, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against Oakland this year.
The A’s (68-83) watched an opponent celebrate a division title on their home field for the second year in a row after Texas did it last season.
After yielding seven runs in five innings in a loss to Kansas City on Sept. 6, Gonzalez bounced back against the Angels on Monday, giving up two runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 victory. It was the fourth win in five starts for the left-hander, who has a 2.30 ERA in those victories.
In his lone start of the year against the Tigers on April 14, Gonzalez gave up two hits but walked six in six scoreless innings of a 3-0 loss, but didn’t get a decision. It was quite an improvement from his first three career starts against Detroit in which he posted a 10.22 ERA en route to three losses.
Oakland’s offense was limited to four hits Friday, but Josh Willingham(notes) continued to swing a hot bat. Willingham established a career high with his 27th home run, and is batting .393 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last eight games.