The last three Triple Crown winners went on to play in the World Series, and Miguel Cabrera officially has a chance to be the fourth straight to do so if he accomplishes the prestigious feat.
Fresh off clinching their second consecutive AL Central title, the Detroit Tigers look to stay hot in preparation for the playoffs when they continue their final regular-season series against the host Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
Cabrera went 4 for 5 and hit his league-leading 44th homer in the sixth inning of Detroit's 6-3 win over Kansas City on Monday, helping the Tigers wrap up the division title and their first consecutive postseason appearances since 1934 and '35.
Detroit (87-73) trailed Chicago by three games on Sept. 18, but it has gone 9-4 since while the White Sox have dropped 10 of 13.
"It was a rocky road, it was a tough season, but in this business, you have to be able to take some hits," manager Jim Leyland said. "This isn't a place for the faint-hearted. Hell, we took a lot of punches, a lot of them justified, some of them maybe not. But hey, we can take a punch."
Cabrera, who also leads the AL with a .329 average and 137 RBIs, is on the verge of becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Like Baltimore's Frank Robinson (1966) and the Yankees' Mickey Mantle (1956) before him, Yastrzemski helped guide his team to the World Series.
"He's unbelievable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime player," general manager Dave Dombrowski said of Cabrera. "I talked to him and he said, `The Triple Crown is important, but it's not the most important thing. I want to win a championship."
Prince Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal in the offseason after winning the NL Central with Milwaukee in 2011, also went 4 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
"It wasn't easy, but we got it done," Fielder said.
Detroit looks to stay hot Tuesday as Doug Fister takes the mound for his final postseason tuneup.
Fister (10-9, 3.38 ERA) has been solid over his last two outings, tossing a seven-hit shutout to beat Minnesota on Sept. 22 before allowing three runs and striking out a season high-tying 10 in 7 2-3 innings of Thursday's 5-4 win over Kansas City.
The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in his last five starts, set the AL record by fanning nine consecutive Royals.
"Honestly, I had no idea," Fister said.
The Royals were a bit more aware.
"It's crazy, to go through a whole lineup and strike everybody out," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "And I don't think he threw more than four pitches to any of the batters."
Fister is 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his last four appearances versus the Royals, including a win in relief on Sept. 21, 2011.
Kansas City (71-88) has two more chances to eclipse last season's win total and will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound as he looks to extend his unbeaten streak.
Guthrie (4-3, 3.18) hasn't lost since falling to Texas on Aug. 3, going 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA over his last 10 starts. The Royals, though, lost one of his outings for the first time in that stretch Wednesday, as Guthrie gave up four runs in seven innings of their 5-4 defeat in Detroit.
The right-hander will be making his fourth start versus the Tigers in 2012. He lost 5-0 while pitching three innings under Colorado's 75-pitch limit June 17 before scattering 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 2-1 win over Detroit on Aug. 30.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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