Tigers top Twins for fourth straight division title

Price goes 7 1/3 shutout innings; Detroit to face Orioles in ALDS

Tigers top Twins for fourth straight division title

DETROIT -- The Tigers still own the American League Central. It just took them a little longer to deliver the final installment.

It wasn't quick, and it wasn't easy, but the Tigers have gone the easy route before and come up short. With 7 1/3 shutout innings by David Price and two RBIs from Ian Kinsler, the Tigers clinched their fourth consecutive division title by the slimmest of margins, taking a 3-0 win over the Twins on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park.

They're back in the postseason with a chance at the World Series they've been pursuing for four years. They'll take it.

"Battle-tested teams are always better," Kinsler said. "To be able to put up with those things and to overcome what we've overcome definitely makes us a tougher team. Now the goal's just to prove it."

The Tigers' 90th win of the season was one more than the Royals, who held on to beat the White Sox in Chicago with their spot in the AL Wild Card Game sealed by game's end.

Detroit advances to the AL Division Series against Baltimore, which will host the opening two games Thursday and Friday. Game 3 of the ALDS will be at Comerica Park on Sunday, with Game 4, if necessary, on Monday, Oct. 6, in Detroit. Game 5, if necessary, would be back in Baltimore on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

It's the step expected from the Tigers all along. Make what you want about the long wait, but with the sense of urgency at its peak, the Tigers again delivered, thanks in large part to two players who weren't around for the previous three division titles.

All of those were clinched on the road. Twenty-seven years had passed since the Tigers clinched at home. That, too, came on the final day of the regular season, when another Tigers left-hander, Frank Tanana, won a division title in Detroit by shutting out the Blue Jays at Tiger Stadium.

Price couldn't duplicate Tanana's shutout, but he came close. The one opponent that kept him from it was his pitch count. Considering how well the Twins had chewed up one Tigers pitcher after another over the last few weeks, it was an accomplishment.

Five days after taking a shutout bid into the ninth inning and losing a 3-0 lead, Price was again at his best, changing speeds and holding down a Twins lineup that pounded Tigers pitching for much of the season -- including Price a week and a half ago at Target Field -- and scored 23 runs over the previous two nights to take Detroit's division hopes to this point.

There wasn't a major change in game plan, catcher Alex Avila suggested.

"It's about getting ahead and executing," Avila said.

There was one pitch in particular that Price executed on the Twins to frustrate them.

"That's the best I've ever seen him command every pitch in and out, but especially his cutter," Brian Dozier said. "It was sharp. It wasn't just a little baby cutter. It was moving pretty good. When he commands that 93-94 [mph] with a backdoor cutter, he's tough."

Price (15-12) allowed four hits over 7 1/3 innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts. He retired the side in order in just two innings, and faced a runner in scoring position in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, the latter two with less than two outs. Each time, however, he got a clutch strikeout.

Dozier, who homered each of the previous two nights, whiffed on a 94-mph fastball to end the third. Oswaldo Arcia fanned in the fourth before Eduardo Escobar grounded out. Aaron Hicks doubled with one out in the fifth, but Price sent down Danny Santana with a changeup, fastball and cutter before retiring Dozier on a flyout.

It was the kind of big-game outing that prompted the Tigers to trade for Price at the July 31 Trade Deadline. They just weren't counting on needing it quite so soon.

"You can't pitch a better game than what he did," Kinsler said. "He could've gone 1 2/3 more, but I think that's just getting greedy."

Kinsler's 17th homer of the season was the Tigers' first hit off Kyle Gibson, who made his first trip through the Tigers' lineup allowing only a walk. A hanging breaking ball on a 1-0 pitch was one of the few mistakes Gibson (13-12) made all afternoon.

"I was lucky enough to get a hanger from him," Kinsler said. "He didn't make a lot of mistakes today. To be able to capitalize was just big."

The pitch that added on runs in the eighth wasn't so much a mistake as a credit for Kinsler. Gibson tried to go inside for a fastball, but Kinsler anticipated it, sending a ground ball through the left side as Andrew Romine sped into third base.

Third-base coach Dave Clark aggressively waved Romine home, challenging left fielder Chris Herrmann to make a play. Romine not only beat the throw, but allowed Ezequiel Carrera to take third base and set up Torii Hunter's sac fly off Lester Oliveros.

All that was left was the ninth inning, and closer Joe Nathan turned in one of his best of the year. And once Avila secured Arcia's popup in his mitt for the final out, the Tigers stormed the field.

For all the celebrating they've done the last few years, it could have been subdued. For all they've been through this year, it was not.

"I understand that the fans were frustrated," Victor Martinez said, "but there was nobody more frustrated than ourselves. We know what kind of talent we have here. We really were frustrated, and you know what, I'm really proud of this group today. We stayed together, and here we are."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.