Tigers Inch Closer to Second Consecutive Division Title, While Giving Us Multiple Heart Attacks Along the Way

Miggy and Prince celebrate.

It wasn’t easy, though it should have been.

It wasn’t pretty, though it was for most of the game. At least until that infernal bottom of the eighth inning.

And, in spite of all that—the drama in the eighth inning, the specter of Phil Coke warming up in the bullpen in the ninth while closer José Valverde struggled to find the strike zone—the Tigers managed to whittle their magic number to clinch the AL Central down to three games.

Justin Verlander made a statement in his final start of the regular season, not only for the individual hardware—he is perhaps the Cy Young frontrunner as we speak—but maybe for his team as well. Verlander went 7+ strong innings, giving up only 4 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts and one unearned run (that scored on the Ryan Doumit grand slam after Verlander had already left the game).

More on this game after the jump

The Tigers needed their ace to be the stopper after a disappointing game the previous night and he was just that, giving the Tigers a chance to win and pull ahead in the division race by 1.5 games.

With the White Sox’ 10-4 loss this afternoon (both games ended almost simultaneously), the Tigers now sit two games up in the standings with four left to play. It’s not impossible for the White Sox to come back, certainly, and we’ve seen some crazy stuff in the final days of the season before, but the White Sox have next to no margin for error now. Tomorrow they go up against Tampa Bay’s David Price, who is a Cy Young candidate in his own right. The Tigers truly do control their own destiny right now.

Bullet points:

  • Miguel Cabrera hit homerun number 43 in the eighth inning to give the Tigers some breathing room. Cabrera is now back in the lead or tied for the lead in all the triple crown categories with four games to go in the regular season. Cabrera looked bewildered by the late afternoon shadows earlier in the game.
  • Andy Dirks, who has shown little homerun pop since he came back from the DL in August, hit his eighth homerun of the season. Dirks had two hits and an RBI.
  • Justin Verlander racked up his 17th win, and has now won at least 17 games six times in his career. Verlander finishes the season one strikeout shy of 240, which he has done in two other seasons. If he’d gotten one more strikeout, he would have joined Mickey Lolich as the only other Tiger to accomplish that feat.
  • Via Scottwood of Motownsports, Verlander had a 0.64 ERA in his last 4 starts.
  • Jhonny Peralta had an RBI double in the second inning to score Dirks. Peralta now has 7 doubles and 20 RBI in 25 games at Target Field. (h/t Brian Britten)
  • Joaquín Benoit struggled to find the strikezone today, and when he did, Doumit took him deep for a grand slam. The Tigers need to straighten Benoit out again, because the bullpen is looking a little thin these days.
  • Al Aburquerque pitched the Tigers (and Benoit) out of a jam and then showed some emotion as he enthusiastically clapped his hands all the way to the Tigers’ dugout. Quintin Berry’s enthusiasm must be rubbing off on his teammates~!
  • If the division is decided before Wednesday, Jim Leyland says Max Scherzer will not pitch in that game. It would be his last scheduled start of the regular season.
  • If the Tigers win and the White Sox lose tomorrow, the magic number will be down to one. Three more Tiger wins or three more White Sox losses—or any combination—will clinch the division. The earliest the Tigers could clinch is Monday in Kansas City.

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