Detroit — Anibal Sanchez retired the final batter on a weak grounder, and Detroit players began celebrating around the mound.
Moments later, the home crowd roared a little louder when the American League Central standings were posted on the scoreboard in left field – with the Tigers back in a tie for first.
“We control our own destiny. We’ve just got to continue to play good baseball,” catcher Gerald Laird said. “We don’t have to rely on anybody to beat anybody now. It’s all on our shoulders.”
Sanchez threw his first shutout in more than a year, and the Tigers caught the Chicago White Sox atop the division with a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. Detroit had spent only one day in first since the start of August. The Tigers were tied with the White Sox after beating them Sept. 2 – but quickly fell back.
Now it’s even again with eight games to play. Even in this season of expanded playoffs, Detroit and Chicago are in an old-fashioned division race with seemingly everything at stake – because a wild card isn’t a likely option.
The White Sox lost, 4-3, to Cleveland earlier in the day, then Sanchez (4-6) took the mound and retired the first 11 hitters he faced.
The Tigers trailed the White Sox by three games on the morning of Sept. 19, but they’ve made up the ground and will have a chance to win a second straight division title if they can finish strongly enough.
“Nothing is over, nothing is in,” Sanchez said. “We’re right there.”
Sanchez allowed only three hits. He struck out 10 and walked one. Sanchez threw 105 pitches in his first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011, when he tossed a one-hitter for Florida at Pittsburgh.
Bruce Chen (11-13) gave up RBI singles by Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in the first inning.