No collapses, no post-All-Star break trauma. This Detroit Tigers team was all business.
Doug Fister pitched another masterful game as the Tigers won their first divisional championship since 1987 with a 3-1 win over Oakland.
Detroit last won a division title as members of the American League East before Major League Baseball realigned its divisions. This was the Tigers’ first crown as members of the Central Division.
Fister did his part yet again, giving up just three hits in eight innings, allowing only Josh Willingham’s solo homer in the second to reach the scoreboard. Fister, who came over at the trade deadline from last-place Seattle, is now a division champion after compiling a 6-1 record with Detroit.
Don Kelly hit an RBI single in the third to tie the game at one and then homered in the seventh to stretch the lead to 3-1. Wilson Betemit tripled in the winning run in the sixth to give the Tigers a 2-1 advantage.
Jose Valverde relieved Fister despite having thrown just 91 pitches, and worked around a lead off double to earn his 45th straight save.
It was quite a turn from years past in which Detroit held division leads for large portions of time but could not hold on to them when it mattered the most. The Tigers were one of the hottest teams in baseball during the first half of 2006, but were bumped from the top of the standings in the final days of the season and had to hold on for a wild card berth.
Then in 2009 the team infamously blew a three game lead with four to play, losing a tie-breaker contest with Minnesota. No more.
There would be no doubts this time after Detroit ripped off 12 straight wins — all against divisional opponents — before losing last night to the Athletics that increased their division lead to 13 1/2 games coming into tonight’s contest.