Tigers complete repeat run; A’s, Nats on postseason list
Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 7:00 pm
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There could have been some infighting when the Detroit Tigers were languishing below .500 midway through the season, or even when they trailed the Chicago White Sox deep into September.
This was the team, after all, that won the AL Central last year, and was only supposed to get better with the signing of Prince Fielder. But the lofty expectations out of spring training had been long forgotten by everyone outside the clubhouse, the season so often close to being written off.
Then the White Sox started to falter, the Tigers finally started to play defense, and all the pieces came together for a joyous ride that ended in a raucous celebration Monday night.
The Tigers, paced by MVP front-runner Miguel Cabrera, beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3 to clinch back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1934-35 seasons.
“It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “This isn’t a place for the faint-hearted. We took a lot of punches, a lot of them justified, some of them maybe not, but hey, we can take a punch.”
They’re just as likely to come out swinging, too.
Cabrera had four hits on the night, including a homer during a decisive five-run sixth inning, to prop up his chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967.
Gerald Laird added a bases-loaded double, Rick Porcello (10-12) pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and Jhonny Peralta went deep off Bruce Chen (11-14) to give the Tigers a big lead.
After hanging over the dugout railing the entire ninth inning, they streamed onto the field behind the pitchers’ mound to celebrate their division title the moment Jose Valverde got Alcides Escobar to ground out to shortstop with a runner on second for his 35th save in 40 chances.
A’s punch ticket
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — This time, it was manager Bob Melvin who took a whipped cream pie in the face.
All those walk-off wins from guys hardly known beyond the Bay Area until now, all those moving parts and the long list of injury reports day after day, Melvin has had as big a hand in Oakland’s return to the playoffs as anybody — and his players will swear by it.
So, fittingly, it was his turn to be celebrated.
Josh Reddick planted the pie in the skipper’s face moments after a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
The upstart, scrappy, no-fear A’s are now the playoff-bound A’s.
They still hope to be AL West champions, too. Two more wins against the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers would do it.
Coco Crisp’s latest big hit helped put the A’s in the playoffs for the first time in six years, and they remained in contention for a division crown.
“We want to come out here and compete way above our means,” Crisp said of the low-budget franchise. “We’re going to enjoy it right now.”
Crisp had a go-ahead double in the fifth inning as the A’s (92-68) pulled within one game of Texas (93-67) in the AL West with two to go and moved into a tie with Baltimore for the American League’s top wild card.
Oakland’s victory also eliminated the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays from playoff contention.
Nats are champs
WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Washington Nationals’ first draft pick back in June 2005, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was there almost from the start, through the various last-place finishes and the consecutive 100-loss seasons.
He stuck around, signing a couple of long-term contracts, always convinced he would be a part of a winner one day.
That day finally arrived Monday night, when the Nationals clinched their first NL East title since moving from Montreal seven years ago.
And so, his gray championship T-shirt soaked with champagne and beer, white ski goggles dangling around his neck, Zimmerman — low-key and straight-faced through the ups and downs (well, mostly downs) — paused in front of the couple of thousand fans in the stands cheering and chanting during the players’ on-field celebration. On his way to the home clubhouse at Nationals Park, Zimmerman raised both arms and bellowed.
“The odds were in my favor, that I was going to win at some point here, right?” Zimmerman said.
Published in The Messenger 10.2.12