Max Scherzer is a big reason why the Detroit Tigers are on the verge of clinching their third straight American League Central title. It's only fitting that he'll be on the mound Wednesday, as they try and secure a division title in the finale of their three-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Scherzer picked up win No. 20 on Friday against Chicago, as he held the White Sox to three runs and six hits in six innings. He is 20-3 on the year with a 3.00 ERA.
"You relish these moments," Scherzer said. "You play the game to win. You play the game to be on top. And tomorrow we have a chance to be on top of the American League Central. That's always a special moment because it's never easy to get to the playoffs. For me, I'm going to treat it like Game 7 of the World Series, get ready for the playoffs. That's the type of mentality it's going to be in the playoffs. Might as well do it in my last start of the season."
Detroit took care of business on its end Tuesday, as the Tigers hit three home runs in the fourth inning in a 4-2 win.
Victor Martinez led off the decisive frame with a solo shot down the line in left field. Omar Infante followed with a blast of his own to left and with two outs and Ramon Santiago occupying first, Austin Jackson cracked a two-run shot to center for a 4-1 edge.
Scott Diamond (6-12) surrendered all four runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings of work to absorb the loss.
"Everything has come in clumps for me," Diamond said.
Doug Fister (14-9) took the win after holding Minnesota to two runs while striking out seven over 6 1/3 frames. Jackson and Torii Hunter each had three hits for the Tigers, who clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
"We're not celebrating because we haven't done what we want to do," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Detroit could have wrapped up the AL Central with a win and an Indians loss, but Cleveland beat Chicago on a Jason Giambi two-run homer in the ninth inning.
The Tigers' magic number to win the division is at one with four games remaining on their schedule. They are trying to become the first team to win three straight AL Central crowns since Minnesota from 2002-2004.
Hoping to avoid a celebration in their park, the Twins will rely on veteran Kevin Correia, who is 9-12 with a 4.29 ERA. Correia did not get a decision on Thursday in Oakland, as he allowed two runs in five innings, but walked five in his team's 8-6 win.
"Another win isn't really going to change our season that much," Correia said. "I'm just going to go out there and throw a good game. Wins and losses are kind of out of our hand but at this point in my career, I'm trying to win games. I'd rather give up a few runs and get the win than throw a good game and not get the win."
On the milestone front Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is two wins shy of 1,000 for his career.
Detroit is 10-8 against the Twins this season.