Cabrera's big night helps Tigers clinch Central

708292.jpg

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."

Quick Links

Wieters two-run HR propels Orioles past Blue Jays

Wieters two-run HR propels Orioles past Blue Jays

BALTIMORE—It’s silly to label games as “must win” when 30 still remain to be played. But, after the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of a three-game series, they fell a season-high four games behind in the American League East. 

Sure, the Orioles have mathematically been in the postseason picture in each of their first 132 games, but in the past two weeks, their place got a lot more tenuous. 

On Tuesday night, they made sure they’d stay relevant for a while longer by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 before 16,083 at Oriole Park. 

With the win, the Orioles (72-60) moved back to within three games of the Blue Jays (75-57) in the American League East.

It was Matt Wieters who broke a 3-all tie in the eighth inning with a two-run home run. 

It was Ubaldo Jimenez, who many fans feared would have little chance against a legitimate American League Cy Young Award candidate, J.A. Happ. 

Jimenez actually outpitched Happ, and only a two-run home run by Michael Saunders in the seventh prevented him from getting the win.

“It feels really good. It’s something I wanted to do since the beginning of the year. I wasn’t able to but I never give up. I always figure out a way to get up and be there for the team and I’ve been able to be there for him the last two games. Hopefully it keeps going,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez is filling in for Chris Tillman, who is on the disabled list.

“He’s had two good outings in a row in a time of need. Real proud of him. He was solid. He had a lot of pitches could have gone his way, a lot of borderline pitches. He was down in the zone almost the whole game. The one he got up was the home run to Saunders. But he was solid. You can say a lot of different things about things that happened in the game, but none of it means anything if we don’t get that type of start from him,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

Jonathan Schoop walked against Jason Grilli (4-2) with two outs in the eighth and then Wieters hit his 12th home run, and the Orioles had a 5-3 lead.

“It’s a big game. We’re going to be playing a lot of teams in the division, so there are going to be a lot of big games. I think the key is to be able to enjoy this one and move on tomorrow. We’ve got to come back and win another one tomorrow,” Wieters said. 

Brad Brach (8-2) worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 39th consecutive save. 

Brach often seems to be the beneficiary when the Orioles pull off a late-inning win. Is he just in the right place at the right time? 

“Some of it is, but most of it is because he’s good. And most of it is we like him in there with the game on the line,” Showalter said. “It’s so hard to be consistently contributing and being there for us as Brad and Zach have been all year. Nothing about the ninth inning is ho-hum either. This is a very good ball club over there and you got to keep your foot on them when you got them down."

RELATED: Orioles great headed to Maryland Hall of Fame

Jimenez lasted one-third of an inning when he last started against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 12. This was much better. 

Toronto scored a run in the second when Saunders doubled and scored on Kevin Pillar’s two-out single. 

The Orioles scored three in the fifth on Steve Pearce’s 13th home run and Manny Machado’s 32nd, the 100th home run of Machado’s major league career. He’s the youngest Oriole to do so.

"It’s a big number. It’s a huge number. Not a lot of guys have 100. To get to that milestone is something that I’m never going to forget. And just getting this W. Every time I get a milestone or something, (if) it comes out with a W it just makes it a lot better,” Machado said.

“To come out with a W on top of your accomplishments. It’s very humbling. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. It’s not like I’m sitting around, not doing anything. Everyone in here works to get to certain situations and I finally got to one. I reached one, I could knock it out, knock it out of my checklist. Now is a time to keep playing baseball and try to knock out another one off my checklist, which is to try to help this team get somewhere that it hasn’t been in a long time.”

NOTE… Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.99) faces Yovani Gallardo (4-6, 5.69) on Wednesday night. 

 

 

Quick Links

Scherzer dominant as Nationals edge Phillies 3-2

Scherzer dominant as Nationals edge Phillies 3-2

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Max Scherzer didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and he was dominant through eight as the Washington Nationals continued their mastery of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-7) allowed three hits and struck out 11 while walking one. He was perfect through the first four innings, striking out five consecutive batters -- all swinging -- between the second and third innings.

Ryan Howard, who got the start despite being 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer coming in, hit an opposite-field two-run home run in the seventh inning to break up the shutout and pull the Phillies within 3-2.

But Scherzer closed the door from there, striking out three more in the seventh and eighth en route to his 15th win of the season.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 37th save, getting a strikeout and inducing a game-ending double play after issuing a leadoff walk.

Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera collected the only other hits for the Phillies, who have lost six of eight to fall 12 games below .500. They have dropped their last eight games to Washington, which matches the team record for consecutive losses vs. the Nationals/Expos franchise.

Scherzer, who pitched two no-hitters last season, didn't allow a runner to reach base until Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp walked with one out in the fifth. Galvis ripped a double to right-field to lead off the sixth to break up Scherzer's no-hit bid, but was picked off second base by Scherzer to end the scoring threat.

Scherzer has allowed just five hits in his last two starts after pitching a two-hit, eight-inning gem vs. Baltimore on Thursday. He's taken a no-hitter into the sixth in nine of his 61 all-time starts with the Nationals.

The Washington ace also had a sacrifice-bunt RBI in the fourth after Ryan Zimmerman walked and Danny Espinosa ripped a single. The inning ended when Espinoza was thrown out at the plate on a dart from Phillies right fielder Aaron Altherr with Espinoza colliding with Rupp on the play.

The Nationals staked Scherzer to an early lead in the first inning. With two outs and nobody on, Daniel Murphy doubled before scoring on a double by Bryce Harper, his 19th RBI in the last 19 games. Wilson Ramos brought Harper home with an RBI single to put the Nats ahead 2-0.

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff (9-13), who walked just six batters in his last eight starts coming in, issued three walks and allowed five hits and three earned runs through six innings.

Scherzer's double-digit strikeout game was the 12th of the season, setting a Nationals record. He improved his career record to 7-1 against the Phillies, including a 6-0 mark since he joined the Nats in 2015.

The Nationals, who opened their six-game road trip with a 4-0 victory over the Phillies on Monday, are 7-1 at Citizens Bank Park this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: Peter Bourjois missed his second straight game after getting hit in the left wrist by a pitch Sunday.

UP NEXT

The Phillies and Nationals wrap up their three-game series Wednesday night with Philadelphia LHP Adam Morgan (1-8, 6.50) opposing LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-9, 4.25).

Quick Links

Former Terp Shaun Hill could be in line to start after Teddy Bridgewater injury

Former Terp Shaun Hill could be in line to start after Teddy Bridgewater injury

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee along with a completely torn ACL and "other structural damage," the team announced on Tuesday evening. 

With the injury almost undoubtedly ending Bridgewater's season, the football question begins to arise. Who will play quarterback in Minnesota? The answer could be former Maryland Terrapin.

Shaun Hill, a veteran journeyman, could be the next in line, barring a move by Minnesota to acquire another quarterback. 

MORE TERPS: 4-STAR DEMATHA OFFENSIVE LINEMAN PLEDGES TO MARYLAND

As currently constituted, Hill is on the roster along with former Wisconsin QB Joel Stave and former Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke.

Hill, 36, came in for the injured Bridgewater last season against St. Louis after the quarterback left the game with a concussion. Minnesota would win, 21-18, in overtime.

Hill has played for four teams during his NFL career -- the Vikings, 49ers, Rams, and Lions. He has thrown for more than 8,000 total yards and has a career passer rating of 85.2.

Before turning pro, he helped Maryland to the 2001 ACC title as a senior. The Terrapins would reach the 2002 Orange Bowl and end the season ranked No. 10 overall.