Tigers shut out Twins to win Central title
MINNEAPOLIS -- One run and a stellar pitching effort were all the Detroit Tigers needed to clinch the American League Central title Wednesday.
The first Detroit batter of the game scored, Max Scherzer struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings, and the Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 at Target Field to start the celebration.
The Cleveland Indians won earlier in the evening, so the Tigers needed the victory to clinch their third consecutive division crown.
"They're awful happy," an emotional Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of his raucous players after the win. "I just don't think people realize how hard it is to win. You've got to congratulate Cleveland and Kansas City -- they made it awful tough. Particularly Cleveland. But we showed out toughness. I said all year long that we were going to have to be tough to win it. I think we showed that tonight."
Scherzer (21-3) gave up just two hits in his 123-pitch outing. He worked his way around six walks.
"To me, he showed tonight why he is the Cy Young winner," Leyland said. "If that doesn't get him over the hump, I don't know what does."
Jose Veras and Drew Smyly combined to blank the Twins in the eighth inning, and Joaquin Benoit retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his 24th save.
"I think that when we started in spring training ... people had such high expectations," Leyland said. "I talked about that in spring training. I said, 'Don't get caught up in the expectations, get caught up in how you are going to live up to the expectations.' That's the most important thing, and I think we did that."
The Twins battled the Tigers tough all season, and they did so again Wednesday night. Minnesota starter Kevin Correia pitched seven strong innings against the Tigers' potent lineup.
Correia (9-13) threw 107 pitches, giving up the one early run on seven hits and no walks with one strikeout.
"Kevin had a heck of a year for us this year," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He gave us a chance pretty much all year. He stood up there and battled toe to toe with those guys today. So I tipped my hat to the guy, he's pitched very well for us, he's been a great pickup."
The bullpen added two more shutout innings, but the Twins' batters couldn't muster enough hits to threaten the Tigers.
"Unfortunately, Scherzer was good," Gardenhire said. "None of our hits left the infield. I think we had three infield hits tonight. He was tough, had great pitches. He looked like he was scuffling a little bit early, trying to find it. But once he got rolling and found his pitches and found his release point, the ball was diving and darting everywhere. We just didn't really have anything for him."
Austin Jackson led off the game with a stand-up triple off the center field wall. Torii Hunter knocked him in with a single up the middle past Correia for a quick 1-0 lead.
"Scherzer is probably the front runner for the Cy Young, he has great stuff," Correia said. "So, you don't want to fall too far behind. I thought I did a good job after that first hit to limit it, but we just couldn't get anything going off of them."
NOTES: Jackson and Hunter each finished with two hits of the Tigers' eight hits. ... The win was Leyland's 700th as Detroit's manager. Gardenhire has 998 wins. ... The Tigers' starting pitchers have 1,397 strikeouts, tops in the majors. ... Minnesota's Ryan Doumit needs one more home run to be the eighth active catcher to reach the 100-homer plateau.