DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers did their part Sunday, then found cozy spots in their clubhouse, cafeteria, or manager's office to root for Kansas City to beat Minnesota.
No such luck.
Justin Verlander pitched into the eighth inning in the Tigers' 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox, but the Twins routed the Royals to force a tiebreaker for the AL Central title tomorrow at the Metrodome.
“It's going to be fun,” Detroit's Curtis Granderson said. “I'm sure Minnesota is going to be rocking.”
Detroit, hoping to win its first division title since 1987, will start 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello against Scott Baker.
“He's been young all year, and he pitched awfully good against Minnesota the other day,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I know one thing for a fact — he will not be scared. He'll be excited.”
The slumping Tigers got the pitching performance and offense they needed — along with a clutch defensive play — in the final scheduled game of the season to avoid ending the year with a thud.
Verlander was solid on the mound, Ryan Raburn was spectacular at the plate with two homers and a rejuvenated Magglio Ordonez continued his late-season tear with a solo shot as part of a 4-for-4 day.
“I'm awfully proud of our team,” Leyland said. “Have we been perfect? No. Do you wish you would've had it wrapped right now? Do you think you should've? Yes.
“But when you also think that people were picking you fourth in the division in the winter and spring and after 162 games, you're tied for first place — that's not bad.”
A big catch by Granderson in center helped the Tigers end a three-game skid and win for just the third time in eight games.
“What a play,” Verlander said. “If he misses that who knows? It could've been a tie game.”
After getting a game-ending double play, the Tigers seemed to know there was still work to do because they celebrated as if it was just another victory by simply shaking hands on the infield.
“We got one more game and, hopefully, a whole lot more,” Raburn said.
The Tigers, of course, had been watching the scoreboard and saw that Minnesota took a big, early lead over Kansas City.
“C'mon, keep going!” Leyland shouted at the TV in his office when Kansas City homered to pulled within four in the sixth inning. The Twins won 13-4.
Verlander (19-9) was handed a 5-0 lead, then left in the eighth as it got tense at Comerica Park.
Down 5-3, the White Sox had two on when Carlos Quentin hit a shallow fly with two outs. Granderson sprinted a long way and made a fully extended, diving catch to end the inning.
Fernando Rodney got the final four outs for his 37th save in 38 chances.
Verlander set a career high in wins and matched the most any pitcher had in the majors this year.
The 26-year-old right-hander was dominant through seven innings — giving up just two hits — before allowing three runs, four hits and a walk in the eighth.