Tigers 6, Royals 3 (box score)
Like a stubborn husband who found himself in the wrong neighborhood and refused to ask for directions the Tigers took the long route to their destination, but they have arrived for the postseason party on time and no worse for the wear.
The Tigers took care of business in the series opener versus the Kansas City Royals and clinched the American League Central for the second consecutive year. They became the first American League team to wrap up their division, and have locked up the third seed in the AL.
Bruce Chen held the Tigers scoreless through four innings, but a Jhonny Peralta homer in the fifth got the Tigers on the board first. Detroit was able to bust the game wide open the very next inning. Miguel Cabrera hit a solo home run (his 44th of the year) and Prince Fielder doubled, but the Royals should have gotten out of the inning when Jhonny Peralta hit a relatively routine fly ball to center field. David Lough misread the ball and simply dropped it which extended the inning for the Tigers. Andy Dirks followed with a single and took second base on the throw back into the infield, and the Royals opted to intentionally walk rookie Avisail Garcia to pitch to Gerald Laird. Laird, apparently feeling disrespected, lined a double down the left field line, clearing the bases in the process. That gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Rick Porcello got the start and more or less coasted through five innings. He wasn’t particularly sharp, but he wasn’t getting battered and did a nice job of working out of trouble. He entered the game to start the sixth, but was removed after allowing a leadoff home run to Alex Gordon. Al Alburquerque replaced him and immediately ran into some trouble. Billy Butler greeted him with a double, and Alburquerque walked the next two to load the bases with nobody out. He induced a double play off the bat of Jeff Francoeur – which plated one run – but avoided further damage by striking out Lough to end the inning.
Joaquin Benoit continued his streak of questionable outings with a shaky eighth inning. He struck out two but allowed three hits in the process. He was able to sneak out of the inning after Francoeur attempted to stretch his RBI single into a double. Valverde was able to nail down the save in a rather uneventful ninth inning.
The Tigers will have to finish out the year with two more games in Kansas City, but the exercise is purely academic at this point. I’m willing to bet that Leyland will still try to get Doug Fister and Max Scherzer out on the mound for a spell, but neither needs to be overly taxed in the process. I expect to see lots of Darin Downs, Luke Putkonen, and Luis Marte out of the bullpen.
Detroit will host either the AL East or AL West winner (whichever ends up with the worse record) at Comerica Park on Saturday and Sunday for the first two games of the American League Division Series.