Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tigers Clinch Central Division with 4-1 Win; David Wright Homers Twice as Mets Bludgeon Braves, 12-2

Players of the Day for Friday, September 16, 2011

American League

The Detroit Tigers clinched their first Central division title in franchise history, getting a superb mound performance from a key acquisition, Doug Fister, who stymied the Seattle Mariners on three hits over eight innings, for a 4-1 win.

Doug Fister
It was Detroit's first division title since taking the AL East in 1987, prior to the leagues going to a three-division set-up in 1994. MLB had been a two division format since 1969, but the Tigers when the leagues further realigned in 1994, Detroit stayed in the East. In 1998, Detroit moved into the Central as expansion provided the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays. Milwaukee moved from the AL Central to the NL Central, allowing Detroit to switch divisions.

The Tigers came from well back early this season to steamroll the rest of the Central. Their lead over second place Cleveland is 13 1/2 games, the largest in the majors. In late August, the Tigers began to heat up, winning 10 of 13 to finish the month. September began with a loss to Kansas City, but then the Tigers won 12 straight, including taking three from Cleveland and six from the White Sox during that stretch. Their loss to Oakland on Thursday was just their second during September.

Valverde: 45 Saves
During their 12-game win streak, Fister and Justin Verlander each recorded three wins. Fister, who was acquired from Seattle just prior to the July 31 trading deadline with a record of 3-12, reeled off six wins against just one loss in nine starts for the Tigers.

In Friday's clincher, after putting the Tigers in a 1-0 hole after surrendering a solo home run to Josh Willingham, Fister gave up a single to Endy Chavez, but then proceeded to set down 17 straight batters. The A's didn't get a hit until David DeJesus stroked a two-out single in the 7th. Jose Valverde allowed the only other A's hit - a leadoff single by Coco Crisp - in the ninth, but stranded him there, getting the final three outs in order for his league-leading 45th save.

Fister did not allow a walk and struck out five, registering his fifth straight victory.

In the battle for the wild card, Boston topped Tampa Bay, 4-3, to inch away to a four game lead over the Rays. The Sox and Rays play two more at Fenway Park this weekend. The Yankees lost to Toronto, 5-4, which slimmed their lead to 3 1/2 over Boston in the division.

In the West, the Angels lost to Baltimore and the Rangers fell to Seattle. keeping the Texas lead at 3 1/2 games.

National League

David Wright
In a game that may turn out to be significant in terms of standings and pennant races, the Mets - after being criticized for "mailing it in" as a six game losing streak culminated in a 10-1 loss to the Nationals Thursday night, banged out 20 hits to down the Atlanta Braves, 12-2 with David Wright continuing a strong second half, belting two home runs and driving in five runs in a 3-for-6 night at the plate.

The win has no significance for the Mets, well out of the pennant race since the All Star break, but tightened up the wild card scenario as the Braves desperately try to hold off the charging Cardinals and Giants, recently the league's two hottest teams.

While the Braves were being pummeled, the Cardinals took down the Phillies, 4-2, in 11 innings and the Giants clobbered Colorado, 9-1, shrinking Atlanta's wild card lead to 3 1/2 over St. Louis and 5 over San Francisco. The Cardinals, winners of eight of their last 10, remain mired 5 1/2 behind the Brewers in the Central division. Milwaukee won, 6-3, at Cincinnati to maintain their edge.

In the West, Arizona suffered a 2-0 setback at San Diego, which allowed the Giants to creep to within six games of the Diamondbacks. The Giants have won six straight.

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