With a three game lead over the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central standings, the Tigers can clinch the division crown tonight with either a win over the Kansas City Royals, or a Chicago loss to the Cleveland Indians. Either result would make the Tigers the first* American League team to clinch their division.
That’s a crazy thought considering the emotional ride this Tigers team has taken us on this season – they were six games below .500 as late as June 6 – but the rather sorry state of the division allowed the Tigers to hang around through the dog days of summer and make a September push for the title.
I think many of the more persnickety Tigers fans will continue to complain about the “disappointing” season they’ve had, and claim that Chicago “lost” the division and Detroit didn’t “win” it, but the Tigers have actually played some really good baseball these last four months. April and May were a bit of a disaster, but the Tigers have posted a 62-46 mark since the calendar turned to June. That .574 percentage equates to 93 wins over the course of a season, so the Tigers have, for a while now, been playing like we expected them to all along.
Chicago did help out an awful lot by collapsing like they did these last couple of weeks, but they haven’t necessarily been the dominant team all year long. They actually only beat the Tigers in the monthly standings one time all year – all the way back in May. Since then they’ve been slowly bleeding their lead until the floodgates opened late this month.
Of course, Chicago isn’t technically out if it yet – visions of the 2006 season ending sweep at the hands of the Royals still play strong in my head – but if the Tigers simply take care of business tonight they’ll taste the sweet champagne that comes with a division crown, and they’ll be the first in the league to do it.
*The Texas Rangers could also clinch tonight with a head-to-head win over the Oakland Athletics, but that game doesn’t begin until 10:05 PM Eastern Time, so barring lots of extra innings, the Tigers (and White Sox) will have wrapped up their games before the Texas result rolls in.