KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miguel Cabrera had four hits, including his league-high 44th homer during a five-run sixth inning, and Detroit held off the Kansas City Royals, 6-3, Monday night to clinch the American League Central division title.
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 help the Tiger reach the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1934-35.
“We wanted to win this game. That was our goal, to win this one,” Cabrera said. “We did it.”
After hanging over the dugout railing the entire ninth inning, the Tigers streamed onto the field and behind the pitcher’s mound to celebrate their accomplishment the moment Jose Valverde got Alcides Escobar to ground out to shortstop with a runner on second for his 35th save.
The Tigers (87-73) will have the worst record among AL division champions, which means they’ll open the playoffs Saturday at home against the division winner with the second-best mark.
Not that when and where matters much to Detroit manager Jim Leyland’s bunch.
They’re just glad to be back in the playoffs.
“It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits,” 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.”
After winning the division by 15 games last season, the Tigers entered spring training with lofty expectations. But they got off to a slow start and were below .500 in early July. They were still well behind Chicago early last month.
The White Sox faltered, though, and Detroit was able to take advantage.
In his chase for baseball’s Triple Crown, Cabrera had singles in the fourth, seventh and ninth with a homer in the sixth, pushing his AL-leading average to .329, ahead of the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Twins’ Joe Mauer. Cabrera also moved his RBI total to 137, by far the best in the majors.