The last three Triple Crown winners went on to play in the World Series, and Miguel Cabrera officially has a chance to be the fourth straight to do so if he accomplishes the prestigious feat.
Fresh off clinching their second consecutive AL Central title, the Detroit Tigers look to stay hot in preparation for the playoffs when they continue their final regular-season series against the host Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
Cabrera went 4 for 5 and hit his league-leading 44th homer in the sixth inning of Detroit's 6-3 win over Kansas City on Monday, helping the Tigers wrap up the division title and their first consecutive postseason appearances since 1934 and '35.
Detroit (87-73) trailed Chicago by three games on Sept. 18, but it has gone 9-4 since while the White Sox have dropped 10 of 13."It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits," 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."
Cabrera, who also leads the AL with a .329 average and 137 RBIs, is on the verge of becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Like Baltimore's Frank Robinson (1966) and the Yankees' Mickey Mantle (1956) before him, Yastrzemski helped guide his team to the World Series."He's unbelievable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime player," general manager Dave Dombrowski said of Cabrera. "I talked to him and he said, `The Triple Crown is important, but it's not the most important thing. I want to win a championship."'
Prince Fielder , who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal in the offseason after winning the NL Central with Milwaukee in 2011, also went 4 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to nine games."It wasn't easy, but we got it done," Fielder said.
Detroit looks to stay hot Tuesday as Doug Fister takes the mound for his final postseason tuneup.
Fister (10-9, 3.38 ERA) has been solid over his last two outings, tossing a seven-hit shutout to beat Minnesota on Sept. 22 before allowing three runs and striking out a season high-tying 10 in 7 2-3 innings of Thursday's 5-4 win over Kansas City.
The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in his last five starts, set the AL record by fanning nine consecutive Royals."Honestly, I had no idea," Fister said.
The Royals were a bit more aware."It's crazy, to go through a whole lineup and strike everybody out," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "And I don't think he threw more than four pitches to any of the batters."
Fister is 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his last four appearances versus the Royals, including a win in relief on Sept. 21, 2011.
Kansas City (71-88) has two more chances to eclipse last season's win total and will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound as he looks to extend his unbeaten streak.
Guthrie (4-3, 3.18) hasn't lost since falling to Texas on Aug. 3, going 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA over his last 10 starts. The Royals, though, lost one of his outings for the first time in that stretch Wednesday, as Guthrie gave up four runs in seven innings of their 5-4 defeat in Detroit.
The right-hander will be making his fourth start versus the Tigers in 2012. He lost 5-0 while pitching three innings under Colorado's 75-pitch limit June 17 before scattering 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 2-1 win over Detroit on Aug. 30.
|September 28, 2012||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right biceps|
|September 27, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Right deltoid strain|
|September 18, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder fatigue|
|September 16, 2012||Austin Jackson||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained right quadriceps|
|August 23, 2012||Doug Fister||Day-to-Day||Tightness in right groin|
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 28, 2012||Eric Hosmer||Day-to-Day||Strained right shoulder|
|September 18, 2012||Luis Mendoza||Day-to-Day||Strep throat|
|September 14, 2012||Lorenzo Cain||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|August 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Broken left thumb|
|August 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - fractured left thumb|
|July 28, 2012||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right knee|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Miguel Cabrera had two hits, drove in two runs and pressed ever closer to the first Triple Crown in 45 years Tuesday night. Now, the question facing the Detroit Tigers star is whether to play in the regular-season finale against Kansas City.
Cabrera said he'd do what manager Jim Leyland asks of him. Leyland said he'll play Cabrera if he wants. It seems nobody is quite sure what will happen until the lineup card is posted.
"You know, he writes the lineup and I do what he wants," Cabrera said after the AL Central champion Tigers lost 4-2 to the Royals. "I play ball. He's the manager, he's the boss. So whatever he wants to do, we're going to do. I play for the manager."
With one game remaining in the regular season, Cabrera leads the American League in average (.331), home runs (44) and RBIs (139), putting him on the brink of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
"I've not made the decision, but I will. I'm going to think about it tonight. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do," Leyland said. "If he wants to play, then he'll play."
Alcides Esocbar and Jeff Francoeur homered for Kansas City on Tuesday night, and Salvador Perez had the go-ahead RBI in the fifth inning. Jeremy Guthrie (5-3) lasted six innings to improve to 5-0 with six no-decisions in his final 11 starts, the Royals winning 10 of them.
Doug Fister (10-10) allowed three runs on seven hits in 4 1-3 innings for Detroit.
"I pitched to contact and I got the contact, just not the contact I wanted," Fister said. "I have some things to work out in the bullpen in the next few days."
The Tigers will open the postseason on Saturday at home.
"I'm not worried about him," Leyland said. "He's fine."
Max Scherzer is another issue.
The right-hander twisted his right ankle in the on-field victory celebration the previous night, knocking him out of his scheduled start Wednesday. Scherzer, who is 16-7 with a 3.82 ERA, was supposed to pitch five innings to test his sore right shoulder.
Luis Marte will start in Scherzer's place, and Leyland will rely on a hodge-podge of relief pitchers to get through the game, the outcome of which is ultimately meaningless.
Of course, there's a lot of meaning riding on Cabrera's at-bats.
He had a single in the first inning and a bases-loaded single in the third before a fly ball to right field in the fifth. He was replaced by Omar Infante in the bottom half of the frame, something that Leyland indicated might happen.
"I'm the manager and I make the decisions, and you do a lot of things on instincts," Leyland said. "I said, `You know what? Three at-bats is enough."'
Leyland said he gave Cabrera the option of being DH or taking the night off, but Cabrera wanted to play in his usual spot. The Angels' Mike Trout and the Twins' Joe Mauer are chasing him for the batting title, while the Rangers' Josh Hamilton is one back for the home run crown.
"It'll be real interesting to see what will happen," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I give him a little credit. He was playing today after clinching the championship."
While Cabrera insisted on playing, Leyland gave the night off to several other regulars.
Quintin Berry started in center field, Don Kelly in left field, Ramon Santiago at second base and Danny Worth at shortstop. Several substitutions were made in the later innings.
The cobbled-together lineup played a part in the outcome, too.
Escobar homered in the first inning for Kansas City, but the Tigers still led 2-1 on the strength of Cabrera's timely single when the fifth inning rolled around.
Irving Falu , Jarrod Dyson and Escobar strung together consecutive singles off Fister to tie the game. Alex Gordon popped out to shortstop, and Perez hit a hard grounder toward second base that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Santiago fielded the ball and the Tigers got the first out, but Worth couldn't get the relay over to first base cleanly, which allowed Dyson to score the go-ahead run.
Francoeur added a homer in the eighth, and the Kansas City bullpen shut out the Tigers the final three innings. Greg Holland handled the ninth for his 16h save.
"It was actually a good game," Leyland said. "It was kind of fun."
Notes: Royals 1B Eric Hosmer (strained right shoulder) and 3B Mike Moustakas (groin) will miss the final two games of the season. Manager Ned Yost said neither of the injuries will require surgery. ... RHP Luis Mendoza will start the season finale for Kansas City. ... Prince Fielder played five innings at 1B for Detroit. Leyland said he'll DH on Wednesday.