Sept 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder (28) hits a solo home run in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Tigers 2, Twins 1 (box score)
First things first: the Tigers won and the White Sox lost, so the Tigers lead in the American League Central Division has been expanded to three games with only three left to play for each team. The lead means the Tigers have clinched at least a tie for the Division Crown and, at worst, a game 163 tie breaker for the right to head to the postseason. The division title will be won outright should Detroit win at least one more game or Chicago lose at least one more game.
As for the Sunday’s game, Anibal Sanchez had himself another fine outing. He lasted into the seventh inning while allowing only one run to score on seven hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. After a shaky start to his stint in Detroit, he’s come back strong to finish the regular season with a 3.74 ERA – including a 2.43 ERA in the month of September (six starts). He figures to be the Tigers’ number four starting pitcher in the playoffs. I’m not sure anyone else in baseball would have a number four of the caliber of Sanchez.
You would think a top notch pitching performance would allow the Detroit to coast to a win over Minnesota, but that wasn’t the case. The Tigers were held scoreless for the first seven innings as Liam Hendricks induced easy out after easy out. He wasn’t overpowering – he recorded just three strikeouts against two walks in his seven innings – but the Tigers could only tag him for five hits while he was in the game.
The eighth inning saw Jared Burton enter the game, and he was a bit less effective. Austin Jackson lead off the inning with a single, and, after a Quintin Berry strikeout and a Miguel Cabrera line out, Prince Fielder took Burton to the opposite field for his 30th home run of the season. That makes six straight seasons of 30 or more homers for Fielder, that’s every year except his first full season in 2006. The Fielder home run was the only run scoring play for the Tigers, but ended up being all they needed.
Comerica Park may have sapped some of Fielder’s home run power, but it appears that he’ll make this his first year with a .300 average (.309 currently), and he’s currently a tad ahead of his career wOBA pace (.394 to .391). So, despite the slow start in the homer department, Prince has ended up delivering exactly what the Tigers paid for.
Scoring only two runs in a game against Minnesota is disheartening, but the offense has still averaged 4.8 runs per game since the Monday make-up game with Chicago nearly two weeks ago. It goes without saying, though, that the bats need to be awake by the time the playoffs roll around.