The Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins meet tonight in a one-game showdown to decide who will face the New York Yankees in the American League play-offs. After 162 games the two teams finished level at the top of the Central Division after both won crucial games on Sunday night. "We had our backs totally up against the wall, and we won," said the Tigers' manager, Jim Leyland, after Detroit beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3.
The Tigers' Justin Verlander pitched seven-plus innings and gave up six hits and struck out five. Ryan Raburn homered twice, the second a solo shot in the sixth that gave Detroit a 5-0 lead before the White Sox scored three runs in the eighth off Verlander. "We still have a heck of a chance, obviously, to win this division," Leyland said. Minnesota, who will have home advantage for the tie-breaker, thrashed the Kansas City Royals 13-4 in Minneapolis for their fourth consecutive win.
Jason Kubel hit two three-run homers for the Twins while Delmon Young added two solo home runs. The results left the Tigers and the Twins with identical 86-76 records, forcing an extra game to decide the only berth remaining in the MLB post-season. Tonight's winner will begin their best-of-five series against the AL East champions Yankees tomorrow or Thursday in New York. The West Division winners, the Los Angeles Angels, will host the wild card Boston Red Sox in the AL's other play-off series.
The Yankees warmed up for the post-season against the Tampa Bay Rays, strolling it 10-2. The Red Sox were 12-7 winners over the Cleveland Indians while the Angels edged the Oakland A's 5-3. The Toronto Blue Jays lost 5-4 away to the Baltimore Orioles and the Seattle Mariners won 4-3 at home to the Texas Rangers. In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who topped the West, will host the Central Divisions-winning St Louis Cardinals, while the wild card qualifiers and the Colorado Rockies, will visit the defending World Series champions Philadelphia for the start of their series. Both National League series start tomorrow.
The Rockies lost to the Dodgers 5-3 on Sunday with the Phillies edging the Florida Marlins 7-6. The Cardinals, meanwhile, lost 9-7 at home to the Milwaukee Brewers. Elsewhere in the National League, the Washington Nationals won 2-1 away to the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Cubs lost 5-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cincinnati Reds shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0.