Another piece of the postseason puzzle has been locked into place as the Detroit Tigers clinched their third consecutive AL Central championship with a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night. This will mark the first time Detroit has made three straight postseason appearances since 07-09. That's 1907-1909 to be more specific.
If the Tigers were to write a script for their clincher based on this season's performance, Wednesday night's win probably would have matched it pretty closely. Not only did they have their starting lineup intact — sans suspended shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who will be activated on Friday — they also had AL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer on the hill. Though Scherzer walked six and threw a season-high 123 pitches, he only allowed two hits while striking out 10 over seven scoreless innings. Three Tigers relievers combined to record the final six outs, giving Scherzer his league best 21st victory.
It's fitting because the relationship between Scherzer and the lineup behind him was mutually beneficial all year long. There were a handful of times when he leaned on them after a rough outing to get off the hook or pick up a win. And like Wednesday, there were many times when the offense was short-handed or simply not clicking, forcing Scherzer to pick them up.
It worked both ways, but the key is it almost always worked out thanks to Scherzer's consistency. With Justin Verlander struggling to find his rhythm, Scherzer was the man that emerged as the team's unexpected and unquestioned ace in 2013.
He's also the unquestioned leader of clubhouse celebrations, bringing back the multi-colored goggles he debuted last postseason that match his multi-colored eyes.
Here's another look at those beauties:
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) September 26, 2013
By the way, as a result of his success, Scherzer may be the guy manager Jim Leyland calls on in Game 1 when Detroit opens the ALDS next week. After pitching on Wednesday, he'll definitely be rested and ready for the assignment.
The Tigers scored their lone run Wednesday on Torii Hunter's first inning RBI single. Hunter, though mostly under the radar in a lineup boasting Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, has played a big role in Detroit's success, hitting .304 with 84 RBIs. It could be argued that his signing in the offseason was the most important for any team heading into the postseason.
It wasn't the easy road many expected it to be for the Tigers. Despite losing only four times in 19 games against the Cleveland Indians, their division rivals continued breathing down their neck right up until the final week. Cleveland could still pose a threat in the postseason if they hold on to their wild card position, but that's not Detroit's concern right now. They're headed back to the postseason, and that's a feeling that never gets old.