Tigers 4, Twins 2: Tigers clinch post season berth as Martinez, Infante and Jackson supply the long ball

Hannah Foslien

A three home run barrage in the fourth inning carried Doug Fister to a victory over the Twins, guaranteeing the Tigers a spot in the post season. Magic Number for clinching the Central falls to just one.


Final - 9.24.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 1
Minnesota Twins 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 9 0
WP: Doug Fister (14 - 9)
SV: Joaquin Benoit (23)
LP: Scott Diamond (6 - 12)

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The Detroit Tigers rode the long ball to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Scoring all four runs on three homers in the fourth inning, the Tigers had just enough offense to hold off the Twins. The Magic Number for winning the Central drops to just one, but the victory does mean the Tigers are guaranteed, at the very worst, one of the AL wild cards.

The Tigers have made three consecutive post seasons for the first time since 1907-1909, when Hughie Jennings was the manager and Ty Cobb was terrorizing the American League (along with everyone else).

Jim Leyland becomes the first manager in franchise history to lead the team to four post season berths (2006, 2011-2013).

Tigers starter and winner Doug Fister (14-9) was dominant for long stretches, retiring 11 straight at one point. The 6'8" right-hander would ultimately pitch into the seventh, allowing two runs, scattering nine hits, striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings. Joaquin Benoit quickly recovered from his first blown save of the season Monday night by recording his 23rd save.

"They (Cleveland) could run the table, so we gotta win another game." -Jiom Leyland, more concerned about his team than the Indians

Scott Diamond (6-12) started for the Twins and pitched into the seventh as well. He as effective for all but one inning. But that one inning was a doozy. In the fourth, Diamond served up four runs on four hits, three of those home runs.  That was more than enough to earn the defeat.

The Tigers outhit the Twins 11-9, but struggled on offense for most of the game. Save for the fourth inning, of course. Victor Martinez, Omar Infante and Austin Jackson went deep in the game winning outburst. Jackson also had three hits on the night. He was joined by top of the order running mate Torii Hunter, who had three base knocks as well.

The Twins' offense was supplied Chris Parmelee with three hits and an RBI. Brian Dozier added a solo home run in the seventh.

Lost in the excitement of beating the Twins and clinching the playoffs was the Tigers' pitching staff breaking an AL record.

The record the Tigers' broke was set by the Rays just last season with 1383. Up next is the major league record of 1,404, set by the Chicago Cubs in 2003. The Tigers only need to average a hair more than five strikeouts a game over the last four to break the Cubs mark. Being the Tigers' staff averages 8.7 K/9 this season, the record should fall in game 161, which is Saturday in Miami.

But of far more importance, the Tigers need to clinch the division. In 24 hours, we at BYB hope to be covering the 2013 AL Central champion Detroit Tigers.

Scott Diamond, the Twins' struggling starter, should be red meat for the Tigers. But...

It figured Miguel Cabrera would bounce into a double play to end the top of the first.

Bottom half of the first, Doug Fister walked Brian Dozier with one out, leading to the first scoring threat of the game. The Twins pulled off the hit and run with Trevor Plouffe, his single to center putting runners on the corners. Fister pitched out the one out, two on jam when Cabrera started a 5-4-3 around the horn double play on Josh Willingham's ground ball.

Top of the second, Prince Fielder led off by taking Diamond to the opposite field for a single. Victor Martinez worked a base on balls, giving Omar Infante an RBI opportunity.

Infante came through, looping a soft single to short right. Fielder should have scored, but didn't. For whatever reason, he didn't get a good read/jump, and was forced to hold at third.

Fielder's bad base running leaving the base loaded was the start of the inning going sideways.

For some reason Jim Leyland insists on playing Matt Tuiasosopo, forgetting he stopped hitting in July. Nothing changed in this at bat. Tuiasosopo bounced to short, Fielder out at home on a fielder's choice.

Diamond is coming off a start where he didn't strike out anyone in 6 1/3 innings, and hasn't struck out more than one batter in a start since July 1. So Alex Avila goes down swinging for the second out.

Ramon Santiago made it 3-for-3 in awful at bats, bouncing to third to brutally waste a bases loaded with no one out scoring opportunity. Then again, considering the no-hitting Tuiasosopo and the light-hitting Santiago are in the lineup, I shouldn't have been surprised.

Frustration was mounting.

You knew it would happen.  Fister proceeded to give up the first run of the night in the next half inning.

One out, Doumit drove a gapper to left center for a two base hit. Chris Parmelee followed with a single to right, Doumit waved around. Torii Hunter came up throwing, but Avila completely whiffed, forgetting to catch the ball before going for a sweep tag. Doumit was safe, Fister was unable to keep the throw out of the camera well, Avila was correctly charged with an error and Parmelee was awarded third base.

The Tigers pulled their infield in. Ex-Tiger Clete Thomas put the bat on the ball, but he bounced to second, Parmelee forced to hold. Two down, Eduardo Escobar drove a liner to deep left. Tuiasosopo got turned around three ways from Sunday, but somehow recovered to make a leaping catch in front of the wall in left.

WHEW.

The inning was over, but the Twins were up 1-0.

Top of the third, the Tigers stranded a runner in scoring position for a third straight inning. Hunter lined a single to center with one out, taking second on a wild pitch. Even though Diamond doesn't strike batters out, he recorded his second by whiffing, of all Tigers, Cabrera. Fielder then made a bid, but it was to the wrong part of Target Field. He hit the ball high and hard, but to center. Alex Presley camped under it just short of the warning track, ending the inning.

The Twins kept causing trouble in the bottom half of the third.

Dozier reached on a infield single, the barely able to move Cabrera unable to make a play on a swinging bunt. Plouffe singled to right, moving Dozier to third. Fister would bear down (or stand tall, or some such cliche), taking matters into his own hands. He struck out Willingham, then retired Josmil Pinto on a comebacker to strand a pair.

The Tigers were still down 1-0 going into the fourth. In Cleveland, the Indians had scored two in the seventh, taking a 3-2 lead of the White Sox.

It seemed the Tigers weren't going to get much, if any help, in closing out the division. It was going to be on their own shoulders, but the offense would have to wake up, and soon.

Top of four, that's just what happened.

"We hit the ball in the gap, over the fence and we pitch good." -Leyland's recipe for a victory

Martinez finally put the Tigers the on the scoreboard by yanking a chest high fastball down the left field line, his liner just staying to the right of the foul pole, clearing the wall at the 339 mark. Martinez's 14th homer of the season extended his hitting streak to 11 games and knotted the game at 1-1 (MLB.com video).

Make it back-to-back jacks! Infante smashed a line drive over the the 377 mark in left center. The solo shot was number ten on the season for Infante, giving the Tigers the lead at 2-1 (MLB.com video).

Two out and no one on, Santiago extended the inning by singling to right. Jackson proceeded to make it a 4-1 game with a drive which carried into the bullpen in left center (MLB.com video). Jackson's two run shot was his 12th homer of the season and the third of the inning for the Tigers.

Diamond would get out of the inning on Hunter's ground ball, but the Tigers had done a huge amount of damage. Four hits, four runs, all coming on three big flies.

Given a three run lead, Fister gave the Tigers a badly needed shutdown inning. Bottom of the fourth, Fister struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 inning. Bottom of the fifth and the Tigers still up 4-1, Fister was outright dealing. He set the Twins down in order, having retired eight straight.

Just as Fister was ending the fifth, there was actual good news coming out of Cleveland.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the antithesis of Perez was Fister. He was now in beast mode. Make it 11 straight Twins retired, Fister cruising through the sixth, recording his sixth strikeout along the way.

The Tigers would knock Diamond out of the game in the seventh, but wasted a scoring opportunity anyway. One out, Jackson singled through the left side. Twins' skipper Ron Gardenhire called rookie right-hander Michael Tonkin out of the bullpen. Diamond was sent to the showers after 104 pitches and  6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits, striking out two.

Hunter greeted Tonkin by singling to center, his third hit of the night. While the Tigers were trying to tack on another run, the wild game in Cleveland took another 180.

So much for clinching the division tonight. But the Tigers could still guarantee a wild card spot with a win.

While the White Sox were choking away a victory, the Tigers were stranding a pair in scoring position. Cabrera, swinging with just his upper body, popped up to short right for the second out.

Tomkin would wild pitch Jackson and Hunter into scoring position, but Fielder would send a can of corn to left, ending the inning.

The Twins refused to go away. Fister having retired 11 straight, couldn't make it 12. Doumit absolutely crushed a mid-80s fastball, the ball landing somewhere near Jessie Ventura's compound in the upper Minnesota woods. Home run 14 for the Doumit pulled the Twins within two at 4-2.

Parmelee would reach base as well, Infante able to smother his ground ball to the right side, but throwing the ball wildly to first. Parmelee was credited with an infield single.Fister would strike out Thomas, but Escobar singled to center.

Two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Jim Leyland puled his starter. After looking as if he would go deep into the game, Fister was lifted after 109 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits, striking out seven.

Drew Smyly was called on in the fireman role. He did his job, striking out Alex Presley. But rather than allow Smyly to face a right-handed hitter, Leyland was in Captain Hook mode. The often scary Al Alburquerque took over, facing Dozier.

Alburquerque did cause throats to tighten, going to a full count. The runners on the move, Alburquerque got out of the inning on a ground ball to short. Though Fielder had to bail out Santiago with a nice scoop, being the utility man bounced his throw to first.

As for the Tigers' bats, they were back in a slumber. The only hits they could muster since the four run fourth was a pair of singles in the seventh. The eighth was more of the same, going down in order against Tomkin and Caleb Thielbar.

Kept on the shelf for three weeks due to a tender elbow, Bruce Rondon has been finally deemed healthy. He showed just how badly he had been missed in a lights out, dominant, crazy good bottom of the eighth. Throwing 100 plus MPH heat, Rondon struck out the side on ten pitches.

Rondon was THAT good.

Two down in the top of the ninth, Jackson singled off Thielbar. Gardenhire went back to the pen, bringing on former Tiger Casey Fein to take on Hunter. Fein was the victor, striking out Hunter to send the game into the bottom of the ninth.

The bats were back to being stone cold. Had the offense done enough damage in their brief fourth inning barrage to give the Tigers a playoff clinching win? We'd soon find out.

Bottom of nine, Joaquin Benoit  was on the mound, looking to bounce back from his first blown save of the season. But it wasn't going to be easy.

"We're not celebrating because we haven't done what we want to do." -Leyland confirming their eyes are on a division title

Benoit struck out Doumit, but Parmelee doubled off the right field wall. The Twins would now be able to bring the tying run to the plate. The Tigers' closer got the second out easily, Thomas going down swinging on three pitches. It was up to the Twins' number nine hitter, Escobar.

No drama. Please, no drama.

There was none. Benoit struck out the side, Escobar the final victim (MLB.com video).

GAME OVER!

Your final score is Tigers 4, Twins 2. The Magic Number falls to just one. But the win did guarantee the Tigers would be in the post season,as a wild card, With four games remaining, a Tigers victory or Indians loss ends the divisional chase.

There was no wild celebration or champagne for clinching a playoff spot. The Tigers are saving that for winning a division crown, which could come as soon as Wednesday night. The Tigers do up their record to  92-66 (.582), their lead in the Central at 4 1/2 with four games remaining. If you check the official MLB standings, the Tigers now have an (x), signifying they have clinched a playoff berth.

Wednesday is the season and series finale between the Tigers and Twins. Looking to cement his status as the leading candidate for the AL Cy Young in what should be his final regular season start, Max Scherzer (20-3, 3.00 ERA) takes on Twins' right-hander Kevin Correia (9-12, 4.29 ERA).

Scherzer finally crossed the 20-win barrier in his last start, allowing three runs over six innings in a blowout victory over the White Sox. He did hit a rough patch after winning his 19th. Scherzer had a 2.73 ERA over his first 26 starts of the season, elevated to 4.66 ERA in his last five.

Entering the All-Star break with a 6-6 record, Correia has won just three of his 12 second half starts. In 2013, his first season in the AL, Correia has been a far better pitcher at home (5-4, 3.50 ERA) than on the road (4-8, 5.24 ERA). Yet Correia is just 1-5 at Target Field post All-Star Game, his last home win recorded back on July 20.

First pitch for the Tigers' final game of the season with the hated Twins is set for 8:10 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

I see YOU, Rod!

Tonight was the Tigers' first multiple home run game since Avila hit two to beat the Royals on September 15. It was the 21st time this season the Tigers hit three or more bombs, but the first time in nearly a month. The last three homer game was in a loss to the Athletics on August 26.

Chris Perez, everyone's favorite unstable, combustible closer, was asked by the Indians to get three final three outs to shut down the White Sox. Up 3-2 in the ninth and no one on base, a Cleveland career ending meltdown took place.

C.Perez pitching
Viciedo homered to right on a 1-1 count
G.Beckham struck out
Jor.Danks pinch-hitting for Phegley
Jor.Danks struck out
De Aza homered to right on a 0-0 count
Al.Ramirez singled to left
Rzepczynski pitching

Twitter erupted accordingly. Schadenfreude ensued.

Of course, it wasn't to be. Jason Giambi went yard off Addison Reed, his two run shot winning to game for the Tribe. This was much like my own reaction.

I mean, really? Giambi?

That wasn't only brutal heart breaker in baseball tonight. Speaking of brutal...

What would be worse than losing a no-hitter on an infield single? Ask Armando Galarraga.

SIX ROARS:

Torii Hunter: Has snapped out of a slump in a big way. Including a 3-for-5 outing tonight, Hunter is hitting 429 over his past eight games, pushing his average back over .300.

Victor Martinez: His home run woke up the Tigers' offense, along with extending his hitting streak to 11 games.

Omar Infante: Steady at the plate as ever, Infate had two hits, including a home run in the game breaking fourth.

Austin Jackson: Three hits, including what turned out to be the game winning home run, and two RBIs.

Doug Fister: Ran out of gas in the seventh, but was dominant for long stretches.

Bruce Rondon: No one could have hit Rondon tonight. No one. His stuff was wicked, and wicked fast.

BONUS ROAR:

Chris Perez: Did his damnedest to give the Tigers the division.

FOUR HISSES:

Jason Giambi: Couldn't the walk off heroics have waited until after the Tigers had clinched the Central?

The Indians: Lose already!

Addison Reed: What Reed gave the Tigers on Saturday night, he took tonight.

The White Sox: God damn, you guys blow.

ROLL CALL:

Total comments 1,608
Total commenters 54
Commenter list Alex Baker, Arvay7, BadCompany22, Bent82, BigAl, C5wynn, Cabbylander, Conor19, DJ Screw, Designated for Assignment, FrogTownFan, GVLaker09, HookSlide, House by the Side of the Road, J_the_Man, Jacob30, Jim O'Dutchmen, JimWalewander, Joaquin on Sunshine, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, Muttcutts, NCDee, SabreRoseTiger, SanDiegoMick, Scherzerblueeye, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Starsailor, TN Ben, Tbone Tiger, Tigerdog1, TomduhB, Trout Jefferson, Verlanderful, aelix, beelze, bobrob2004, bowling255, dishnet34, draykov44, frisbeepilot, kirdo, kland83, knucklescarbone, madpoopz, rbbaker, sauce1977, stevenyc, swish330, tbombach, texastigerfan, thesiberian
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/24/4768138/game-158-overflowhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/24/4767152/game-158-tigers-at-twins-8-10-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/24/4768388/game-158-overflow-2

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 SanDiegoMick 151
2 Joaquin on Sunshine 117
3 stevenyc 109
4 SabreRoseTiger 98
5 Scherzerblueeye 98
6 frisbeepilot 77
7 SpartanHT 73
8 FrogTownFan 71
9 texastigerfan 69
10 Singledigit 68

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
8 NCDee Holy Moley! These boys are a hit!
3 SpartanHT PLAYOFFS HERE WE COME!!!!
2 Cabbylander Boy, you're gonna carry that weight!
2 J_the_Man Screw this game
2 NCDee I love you, Victor.
2 stevenyc Rush right out
2 frisbeepilot And who leads Crazy Horse?

GAME 157 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Showing vintage Justin Verlander form, the Tigers' ace dominated the Twins, striking out 12 over six shutout innings. Thanks to the bullpen coughing up the lead, he didn't earn the win. But Verlander was a runaway victor in the PotG poll, taking 92% of the vote.

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