DETROIT (Reuters) - The Detroit Tigers swept past the New York Yankees and into the World Series on Thursday giving Motown something to sing about after years of hard times.
Detroit was in full party mode after the Tigers mauled the Yankees 8-1 to complete an unlikely American League Championship Series sweep and return to the World Series for the first time in six years where they will face either the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants.
More than most American cities, Detroit has felt the full force of America’s economic meltdown and painfully slow recovery but fans and players alike are hoping a first World Series title in 28 years can help lift the city.
”We did it, Detroit,“ said Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years leading the American League in home runs, batting average and RBI. ”It’s what we worked for all year, trying to get to this point.
”Hopefully we’ll win the World Series for Detroit.
“We always believed we could do it and we believe we can do it in the World Series, four more wins.”
Despite a lineup that included Prince Fielder, who signed a massive nine-year $214 million deal in the off season, a return to the World Series seemed unlikely as the Tigers sputtered towards the end of their inconsistent 162-game season.
After running away with the Central division last season and strolling into the playoffs with a 15-game lead, the Tigers were expected to dominate again but instead spent large parts of the campaign languishing below .500 chasing the Chicago White Sox.
Detroit’s 88 victories were the joint fewest of any of the 10 teams to qualify for the playoffs and if not for a fantastic surge that saw them win eight of their last 10 to overhaul the crumbling White Sox (loser of 11 of their last 15) would have watched their season end in bitter disappointment.
”I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, let’s just wait till the end and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it,“ said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. ”But let us play out the schedule to see if we underachieve.
”So hopefully we’ve quieted some doubters now.
”The guys just stepped it up when we had to. We caught a couple breaks when the White Sox couldn’t win a couple of games they needed to win.
“We never lost sight of what we were supposed to do.”
With the National Hockey League Detroit Red Wings locked out, the National Football League Lions fighting to find their form and the NBA Pistons rebuilding, it has been left to the Tigers to restore the city’s sporting pride as they chase their first World Series since 1984.
Despite the tough-times and one of the United States highest unemployment rates, Tigers fans have been among the Major League’s most loyal, passing three million in attendance for the third time in six seasons this year.
“Great fans,” said former Tigers’ catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
”I spent four and a half or five years here, very good years, and the fans here, they’re unbelievable.
”They support the team from day one all the way into the end of the season.
“I look forward to going outside and saying hello to them. They are great fans. I respect them. I respect the organization, the city.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury