Cabrera singled and doubled, wrapping up the American League batting title in Detroit's 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night. But that wasn't enough to earn home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Less than an hour after the AL Central-champion Tigers won, they found out they would have to begin the postseason in New York on Friday night.
"It's going to be fun," catcher Alex Avila said. "I don't think we really cared who we were playing. You know in the playoffs you're going to play good teams."
The Tigers could have hosted the wild card in the first round if AL West-champion Texas had lost to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday. The Rangers won 3-1.
So now Detroit -- which finished the season on a 30-9 tear -- will take on the Yankees, who posted the best record in the American League. The Tigers opened the year by losing two of three at New York. They took three of four from the Yankees at home in early May.
Detroit is going to the postseason for the first time since 2006, when the Tigers beat New York in the first round en route to the World Series.
"They've got good players -- that's the bottom line," Detroit right-hander Rick Porcello said. "If you make it anything more than that, then you're psyching yourself out. They're just like us. We're a good baseball team. They're a good baseball team."
Jhonny Peralta hit his 21st homer of the season off Vinnie Pestano (1-2) in the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead after Ryan Perry (2-0) allowed Cleveland to tie it in the top of the eighth.
Jose Valverde pitched the ninth to finish the regular season with 49 saves in 49 chances.
Cleveland manager Manny Acta was ejected in the first inning, enabling bench coach Tim Tolman to be the acting manager in his final game before moving to an undetermined role elsewhere in the organization. Tolman said before the game he has Parkinson's disease.
Acta said the ejection wasn't an attempt to let Tolman manage his finale.
"I would never make a mockery of a baseball game like that," Acta said. "If I had wanted Tim to manage, I wouldn't have gotten thrown out. I would have handed him the lineup cards and told him to manage. He didn't manage the game anyway -- I managed it from the tunnel. It was just like being in the penalty box."
The Indians led 3-0, and starter Zach McAllister went five innings without allowing an earned run, but the bullpen couldn't hold on.
Detroit took a 4-3 lead in the seventh when Wilson Betemit tripled and pinch-runner Danny Worth scored on a wild pitch. Cleveland tied it in the eighth when Perry allowed a double to Travis Hafner, a pair of walks and then a sacrifice fly by Jack Hannahan.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he had a piece of paper with all sorts of batting average scenarios on it, hinting he might pull Cabrera if he thought it would help him win the batting title. But Detroit needed him in there to try to win the game, and Cabrera did his part.
It was an enjoyable ending to the regular season for Cabrera, who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving early in spring training. He led the American League in home runs in 2008 and RBIs last year. According to STATS, LLC, he's one of three active players with a "career triple crown" -- along with Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.
"That's hard to do," Cabrera said. "I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to go out there every day."
Porcello allowed three runs and five hits in six-plus innings.
Leyland didn't provide an update on the playoff roster. ... Detroit finished 15 games ahead of Cleveland, which clinched sole possession of second place in the AL Central with Chicago's loss earlier in the day. There was an impromptu celebration in the Indians' clubhouse when the White Sox lost. ... Asdrubal Cabrera was in Cleveland's lineup after Acta said the previous day he wasn't planning to play him the rest of the season. "He came in and said he wanted to play," Acta said. "He wants to get out there and play the last game of the season and set the example for his teammates."