Max Scherzer won his 21st game of the season and the Detroit Tigers took the AL Central pennant with a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins.
On the road at Target Field in Minneapolis, Scherzer, 21-3, allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings, struck out 10, but issued six walks. Regardless of the excessive bases on balls, Scherzer's performance capped off one of the finest seasons for a pitcher in some time. With his pitch count at 123, manager Jim Leyland decided to sit Scherzer after seven innings, leaving the rest of the game in the hands of the bullpen.
Jose Veras and Drew Smyly got the Tigers through the eighth and Joaquin Benoit nailed down the pennant-clinching win with his 24th save, striking out two in a hitless ninth inning.
Scherzer will be the only pitcher in the AL with 20 or more wins. The next-closest are Bartolo Colon and C.J. Wilson, each with 17. In the NL, there are no 20-game winners. Jordan Zimmermann failed in his attempt to win his 20th in a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals.
Looking like a solid choice for the AL Cy Young award, in addition to the gaudy, 21-3 record, Scherzer is fifth in the AL in ERA, at 2.90 and second to Texas' Yu Darvish in strikeouts, with 240 in 214 1/3 innings. His 0.97 WHIP is tops among AL hurlers.
Elsewhere in the AL, Tampa Bay eliminated the New York Yankees from playoff contention with an 8-3 win in New York. Kansas City also fell out of the wild card race, losing 6-0 in Seattle. Cleveland, a 7-2 winner over the White Sox holds the second wild card, a game behind the Rays. Texas continued to keep its hopes alive with a 7-3 win over Houston. The Rangers trail the Indians by one game. The Rays and Indians have each won six straight.
NOTABLE: Will Middlebrooks drove in seven runs with a pair of homers - a three-run shot and a grand slam - as Boston hammered the Rockies, 15-5. The Red Sox should finish with the AL's best record. They are 96-63, holding a two-game edge over Oakland with just three games left to play.
AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/25)
Matsuzaka missed most of the season due to injury, but returned to the Mets in late August. In seven starts, he's compiled a 3-3 record.
The Mets topped the Reds for the second time in the three-game series which closed out Wednesday. Matt Latos (14-7) gave up four hits over seven innings, but allowed a third-inning run, taking the loss as the Mets' bullpen preserved the 1-0 victory.
Pittsburgh also lost, 4-2, to the Cubs, keeping the Reds just one back. Al three Central Division leaders - Cardinals, Reds and Pirates - have already clinched playoff spots. The final three games of the season will determine positioning, though the Cardinals need just one more win or one more Pittsburgh loss to secure the division title.
Today's Trivia: The modern (since 1900) NL record for strikeouts in one season by a pitcher is 382. Who holds that distinction? (answer tomorrow)
Yesterday's Answer: Don Drysdale led the NL in strikeouts three times, Sandy Koufax, four times, but Steve Carlton led the league in strikeouts five times, all with the Phillies.