Saturday, September 17, 2011
Tigers tame AL Central, clinch title
On Friday, the Detroit Tigers rode the right arm of midseason acquisition Doug Fister to defeat the Oakland Athletics, 3-1, and capture their first AL Central crown in team history and first division title since winning the AL East in 1987.
Fister, who was acquired July 30, has been on fire having rattled off a career-high five straight wins since August 20 (his previous high was three). Over that stretch he has rivaled the production of teammate and Cy Young contender Justin Verlander.
How has Fister been so successful?
While he mixed up his offspeed pitches, it was the fastball that did the damage against the Athletics. Fister changed eye level with the pitch, throwing no more than half of his heaters to a particular vertical zone. That movement resulted in the Athletics going 2 for 16 with all five strikeouts in at-bats ending with a fastball.
Fister's fortune of throwing 91 pitches in eight innings of work (11.4 pitches/inning) was helped by his ability to avoid three-ball counts. Only three Athletics hitters faced a three-ball counts and all grounded out. And despite throwing his second lowest first pitch strike percentage of the season at 48.1 percent, Fister went to a 2-0 count to just two hitters, throwing nine pitches in the game with a two-ball count.
Thanks to Fister the Tigers become the first AL team to clinch a playoff spot this season as they won for the 13th time in the last 14 games. They will be making their 13th playoff appearance and first since 2006 when they advanced to the World Series.
The Elias Sports Bureau says now that the Tigers clinched their first division title since 1987, only one American League team now has a current drought of at least that length since it last won a division title: the Kansas City Royals, who most recently finished in first place in 1985, when they went on to win the World Series.