Champs again! Price, Kinsler power Tigers to title

Tom Gage
The Detroit News
Anibal Sanchez stands on the dugout and celebrates the Tigers' title with fans Sunday.

Detroit — When all was said and done, the Tigers did it themselves.

No waiting around to see what Kansas City did. No need to keep beer on ice.

The Tigers celebrated Sunday after clinching on their own.

They also celebrated because of the home run Ian Kinsler hit that gave them the lead for good — and because of the masterful way David Price pitched.

But most of all, they celebrated because their bumpy rode finally had led them to a fourth consecutive American League division title with a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins — making their path ahead of so much clearer than it was.

No, the Tigers won't have to play a division-deciding game on Monday — which they would have had to do if a loss had been coupled with a Royals' victory in Chicago. The Royals won 6-4 Sunday.

And, no, the Tigers won't have play a wild-card game Tuesday.

There will be none of those complications. They will open their Division Series in BaltimoreThursday. It's that plain. It's that simple.

The only complication they encountered Sunday was if their goggles didn't keep the bubbly spray out of their eyes.

And make no mistake, there was a lot of spray. But that's all right.

From their crazy dances in the middle of the clubhouse, to the smoke of their expensive cigars — to Joba Chamberlain making sure that the last undrenched Tiger, manager Brad Ausmus, finally got his — they earned every moment of the many they were enjoying.

After dragging themselves through an 11-4 loss Friday when clinching was initially in sight, then compounding one lopsided defeat with another, their efficiency returned Sunday.

And suddenly it was done.

The game had been won, the division clinched — and the Tigers were bouncing up and down on the mound.

This is a team that can truly pat itself on the back for not tightening up after two lopsided losses in a row.

As Alex Avila said after Saturday loss, "can't cry about it. We can only go home and get ready for the next one."

The Tigers were ready all right.

They were relaxed and ready.

In some ways, the pregame scene was every bit as important as the postgame because it was almost as if one led directly to the other.

"This is what we do," said Nick Castellanos, whose youth alone (22) would have been a permissible reason to be nervous. "We're professional baseball players.

"This is what we're good at."

With Castellanos as an example, the Tigers weren't waiting for the worst to happen. They were expecting the best to happen.

You could see it in how carefree they were while kicking a soccer ball around in the clubhouse.

You could hear it in the playful way Miguel Cabrera turned up the volume of the music, drowning out any chance of pregame interviews.

Perhaps Cabrera's approach was right. This wasn't a time for talking about getting it done. It was time only to do it.

In short, it was down to this, as Ausmus had said: "We have a game we've got to win, and I mean we've got to win."

Despite the urgent words, Ausmus didn't act in urgent ways. There was no team meeting before the last game.

"He's as cool a customer as I've ever met," Avila said of the Tigers' unflappable manager.

Besides, there wasn't time to solve the mysteries of underperforming. There was time only for the nonsense to stop, silencing in the process the worry that the last two games had caused to sprout.

Kinsler hit his home run in the third, his 17th of the season. For seven innings, it held up as the game's only run. And while it didn't remain the only run, it was the only one the Tigers needed.

"We really wanted to get it done," said Avila, "and I'm really proud of everybody that we did.

"I always said it would come down to the end. That's how you prepare your mind for it."

Price was the pitcher who protected the lead the longest. He blanked the Twins for 7 1/3 innings on four hits.

The only time he — or anyone else, for that matter — had to hold their breath was on a liner to center that Ezequiel Carrera misjudged, but caught, for the first out of the Twins' eighth when it was still 1-0.

That was the last batter Price faced, his job well done. But the bullpen didn't miss a beat — Joe Nathan getting the save for a flawless ninth.

Price had faced the Twins three other times this season, beating them twice. But he beat them when he was still with Tampa Bay,

As a Tiger, he lost to them 8-4 on Sept. 17 in Minnesota — and it was that kind of performance he knew he could not afford to duplicate.

Price didn't disappoint himself this time, though.

Nor did he disappoint the team that acquired him for being the kind of pitcher equal to Sunday's task.