Kansas City, MO – The Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central title with a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday, and Miguel Cabrera helped his chase for the Triple Crown by going 4-for-5 with a solo home run.
Cabrera's sublime offensive campaign has played a major role in Detroit making consecutive postseasons for the first time since 1934-35.
The slugger leads all American Leaguers in batting average (.329) and RBI (137), and moved one home run ahead of Texas' Josh Hamilton with his 44th homer of the season, inching closer to becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox accomplished the feat in 1967.
Cabrera's blast came during a five-run sixth inning that was capped by Gerald Laird's three-run double, and the Tigers popped the champagne to celebrate an improbable two-week run.
On September 18, the Chicago White Sox led the AL Central by three games, but their 2-10 swoon, coupled with Detroit winning nine of its last 13, has the Tigers in the playoffs for the 14th time in franchise history.
"(Chicago) got up three games about a week and a half ago but we didn't panic," Laird said. "We just played our game. We got some help from other teams and we were able to play good baseball."
Jhonny Peralta broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the fifth, and the Tigers scored five more off Bruce Chen (11-14) an inning later.
Cabrera hit an opposite-field shot over the right-field wall to get the scoring started, and Fielder followed with a double before scoring on David Lough's error.
Laird came up with the bags full and two outs and lined one into the left- field corner to clear the bases for a 6-0 advantage.
Alex Gordon led off the bottom half with a homer off Rick Porcello (10-12), ending the starter's outing.
Al Alburquerque entered from the bullpen and allowed a double and two walks to load the bases, but limited the damage to Jeff Francoeur's run-scoring groundout.
Francoeur added an RBI single in the eighth, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double to end the inning.
Jose Valverde closed out the win and his 35th save with a scoreless ninth, and was joined on the mound with his teammates to revel in another division crown.
Porcello, who had not won since Aug. 7, gave up four hits and three walks to become just the fifth pitcher since 1900 to begin his major league career by posting a double-digit win total in each of his first four seasons prior to turning 24 years old ... Cabrera eclipsed the 200-hit plateau for the first time in his career ... Fielder had four of Detroit's 14 hits ... Chen allowed six runs -- two earned -- on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.