Cabrera's big night helps Tigers clinch Central

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Cabrera's big night helps Tigers clinch Central

From Comcast SportsNet

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, hell, 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.

"We always knew it wasn't going to be easy, and the guys handled it great," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "This is the first step. We want to go a couple more, too."

The Tigers were even mindful of their victory celebration, choosing Fre Brut -- an alcohol-removed sparkling wine -- in deference to Cabrera, who's had alcohol abuse problems.

"It feels really good," Fielder said. "I mean, it wasn't easy, but we got it done."

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 Leyland's bunch.

They're just glad to be back in the playoffs.

"You've got to take your hat off to them. They're the champs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They've got the starting pitching, the power, a great bullpen. They've got a chance to go deep."

It hasn't just been Cabrera, either. Justin Verlander is closing in another Cy Young Award, right-hander Anibal Sanchez has been terrific down the stretch, and Fielder has delivered everything that Detroit had hoped for when they signed him, including four more hits Monday night.

"You get that kind of momentum, usually it ends up very good," said team owner Mike Ilitch, who has spent a lot of money to chase the Tigers' first World Series title since 1984.

The Tigers clung to a 1-0 lead, provided by Peralta's homer, until their big sixth inning.

Cabrera broke a tie with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the major league lead in homers with his 44th, a solo shot to right, and two fielding mistakes by David Lough in center led to another run.

Laird's bases-loaded double knocked Chen from the game, and effectively knocked the White Sox out of the playoffs, though they didn't do much to help themselves down the stretch.

Chicago beat the Indians 11-0 earlier in the night for just its third win in 13 games.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have won seven of their last eight as they surged to the division crown, including five straight against the Royals, who have dropped eight of their last nine.

Porcello kept the Royals off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Alex Gordon's homer to right field finally gave Kansas City some life. Leyland wasted no time lifting his right-hander, who'd done enough to end a string of six straight losses and pick up his first victory in nine starts.

Cabrera had singles in the fourth, seventh and ninth in addition to his homer in the sixth, pushing his AL-leading batting 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.

Cabrera was only part of the party Monday night, though, slapping backs and exchanging high-fives with the rest of his teammates as Detroit locked up its place in the postseason.

He could be the center of the celebration when the regular season ends Wednesday night.

"I don't know what else to say," Leyland said. "If he's not the MVP then there's no such thing."

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Game 26: Capitals at Sabres game time, how to watch, open thread

Game 26: Capitals at Sabres game time, how to watch, open thread

Can the Caps beat the Buffalo Sabres for the third time in two weeks? Stream the game via CSNmidatlantic.com/CapitalsStream or tune in to CSN at 6:30 p.m. for coverage. Here is everything you need to know:

What: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: Saturday, 12/3 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

How to Watch: Capitals GameTime airs at 6:30 p.m. followed by Capitals at Sabres on CSN Mid-Atlantic.

When is the Capitals-Sabres game?

The Capitals (15-7-2) play the Buffalo Sabres (10-10-6) Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET.

What channel is the Capitals-Sabres game on?

The Capitals-Sabres game is broadcast on CSN. The coverage of the game begins at 6:30 p.m. with Capitals GameTime. The game begins at 7:00 p.m with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. For postgame coverage, stick around for Caps Extra following the game. (CSN channel Finder)

Where can I stream the Capitals-Sabres game?

The Capitals-Sabres game, along with Caps Extra, is available to stream live here on csnmidatlantic.com/CapitalsStream and the NBC Sports app and is available to authenticated CSN Mid-Atlantic subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

What are the lines for the Capitals-Sabres game?

Based on Friday's morning skate, here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Jakub Vrana
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Defense
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Nate Schmidt - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches
Brett Connolly, Aaron Ness

Capitals vs. Sabres Open Thread

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals Digital Producer JJ Regan and the CSN Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and CSN's Facebook page.

Keep up with all the action here with Capitals GameZone and join in on the conversation here with Capitals Pulse.

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Ted Leonsis reaffirms support for Alex Ovechkin's Olympics stance

Ted Leonsis reaffirms support for Alex Ovechkin's Olympics stance

With the NHL's Olympic participation in serious doubt, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis reaffirmed his support Friday of Alex Ovechkin should the team captain choose to leave in the middle of the NHL season to go to the Olympics.

Leonsis addressed Ovechkin's stance at the NHL's Board of Governors meeting.

"He has given a lot to our team and he doesn’t ask for much in return and whatever he likes to do in this one, I’ll support him,” Leonsis said, per Josh Cooper of Puck Daddy. "His mother was an Olympian. It’s a part of the tradition in the family and it is meaningful to him, and he’s kind of the ambassador and captain of the team. We don’t sit and talk about this all the time, but he needs to know, and he does know, that in this one instance I’ll have his back.”

RELATED: Q&A: What to do with Kuznetsov

Leonsis made a similar statement in October when Ovechkin first made clear his intention to play in Pyeongchang.

Ovechkin first stated he would leave to play in Sochi for the 2014 Olympics even if the NHL did not participate. At media day for the World Cup of Hockey, Ovechkin vowed again to leave the Caps midseason in 2018 to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The difference in the two situations is that Olympic participation is not a guarantee in 2018. It seemed very unlikely that the NHL would not play in Sochi considering how many Russian players are in the league.

The outlook for Pyeongchang, however, is much more bleak. Just one month ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called NHL participation in the 2018 games "unlikely." The NHL recently made an offer to the NHLPA saying they would agree to participation if the players would agree to extending the CBA, an offer the NHLPA rejected.

MORE CAPITALS: 3 bold predictions: Message received?