Detroit completed a four-game sweep of Cleveland on Thursday night, turning a three-game lead in what for months was a tight American League Central race into a seven-game bulge, when the message came across Twitter.
"Congratulations to the Tigers, who just won the AL Central after sweeping the Indians," wrote Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Detroit Manager Jim Leyland didn't get the memo.
"I know better than that, I'm not a fool," Leyland said. "There's a lot of baseball left. The Indians aren't going away. They're too good. Sometimes you just have those fairy-tale series."
This one began with an improbable comeback Monday night. The Indians led, 2-0, in the ninth inning and had closer Chris Perez on the mound with a chance to trim the division deficit to two games.
Prince Fielder doubled, Victor Martinez hit a run-scoring single, Andy Dirks walked, and .198-hitting Alex Avila hit a three-run home run for a 4-2 Detroit victory.
The Tigers, behind Justin Verlander's gem, won, 5-1, Tuesday. They outlasted the Indians, 6-5, in 14 innings Wednesday and pounded them Thursday, 10-3, to extend their winning streak to 12 games before losing to the New York Yankees on Friday night.
"It's always good to get some separation from the team that's breathing down your neck," Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter said.
The rotation, as expected, has been superb, although with Max Scherzer (17-1) leading instead of Verlander, and an offense powered by most-valuable-player candidate Miguel Cabrera and Fielder is among the AL's top three in runs, average, on-base percentage and slugging.
But the key to the summer surge may be a bullpen led by blue-collar closer Joaquin Benoit, hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon, left-hander Drew Smyly and recently acquired Jose Veras.
"Before the season, in the first half, there were lots of questions about our bullpen," Hunter said. "They've stepped up in the last few weeks and saved us."
Cy Young Award candidates
Since Hideo Nomo joined the Dodgers in 1995, only two Japanese pitchers have been among the top five in Cy Young Award voting, Nomo finishing fourth in the National League in 1995 and 1996 and Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka fourth in the AL in 2008.
But Japanese right-handers Yu Darvish of Texas, Hiroki Kuroda of New York and Hisashi Iwakuma of Seattle could be among the top five in AL voting this season.
Scherzer, who has a 2.84 earned-run average and 175 strikeouts, is the favorite, and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (11-5, AL-best 2.39 ERA) is a top candidate. But so are Darvish (11-5, 2.72 ERA, AL-best 192 strikeouts), Kuroda (10-7, 2.45 ERA) and Iwakuma (10-5, 2.75 ERA).
"Darvish's slider hooks more than a normal slider, his curve breaks more than a normal curve, and his fastball is explosive," Hunter said. "Kuroda has been nasty for years, and Iwakuma is filthy. When I was with the Angels, Albert Pujols hated to face that guy. When Pujols hates to face a guy, you know he's nasty."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun