The Detroit Tigers (88-63) is the first team in 2011 to clinch a division pennant after beating the Oakland Athletics (68-83) earlier today. Owing to a weak competition in the AL Central, the Tigers overtook the Philadelphia Phillies in bagging a division pennant although the magic number for Philadelphia to clinch is now down to 1.
The pennant is the first for the Tigers in the AL Central. They collapsed in September in 2 occasion in recent years. In 2006, they settled for a wild-card berth after losing the division to the Minnesota Twins. They managed to get to the World Series that year only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2009, the team lost game 163 to the Twins after leading the AL Central deep into September. This year, there was no Twins to speak of as Minnesota were hobbled by injuries and fell into last place in the division.
Detroit won its last division pennant in 1987 as a member of the AL East then. The last time that Detroit won the World Series was way back in 1984 with a team bannered by the likes of Jack Morris, Willie Hernandez, Kirk Gibson, Lou Whitaker, and Allan Trammell. The 1984 and 1987 were managed by Hall of Famer George Lee “Sparky” Anderson.
This year’s Tigers won the division by getting hot in August and September. The Tigers were leading Cleveland Indians by just 1.5 games when they started a run where they won 23 of the next 28 games including sweeps against the Indians, the Chicago White Sox, and Twins. It was indeed a stunning turn around for a team that started 3-7 and were 8 games out of first place at one point in the season.
Many observers attribute the sudden emergence of the Tigers to the in-season acquisition of Doug Fister, Wilson Betemit, and Delmon Young. All 3 have contributed well after a change in scenery. Off-season signing Victor Martinez also solidified the batting order by locking up the No.5 slot behind slugger Miguel Cabrera. Closer Jose Valverde closed 44 games in 44 attempts. Ace Justin Verlander leads the MLB in wins and the pitcher has been getting MVP buzz apart from being a Cy Young favorite. In 1984, Relief Pitcher Willie Hernandez won both awards for the Tigers.
The Tigers still have 11 games left and manager Jim Leyland’s main task is to secure home field advantage and set the pitching order for October. If the season ended today, the Tigers would have home field advantage against the Boston Red Sox. There are still many races left in the 2011 season but for the Tigers it is time celebrate at least for a day.
- MLB pennant races and playoff picture as of September 15, 2011 (caloysports.wordpress.com)
- Tigers Win First Division Championship Since 1987 (ballhyped.com)
- Tigers beat A’s, clinch their first AL Central title (cbssports.com)
- Doug Fister pitches Tigers to AL Central title (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Tigers drop A’s, clinch first division title since ’87 (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)