Detroit — Once the champagne dries and the Tigers sober up, there are going to be some tough decisions to make.
There's the issue of the postseason rotation order, which is undetermined but will feature Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander pitching the first three games.
More importantly, there's filling out the roster. The Tigers have some tough decisions there, namely how many relievers they keep, and who occupies their bench.
Nothing was settled Sunday, obviously. But both manager Brad Ausmus and general manager Dave Dombrowski expect there to be some lively discussion on the matter.
"There may be, there may be," a soaked Ausmus said, when a reporter asked if he expects there to be some difficult decisions looming. "We're gonna have to meet (Monday) and talk about it. We couldn't really finalize anything because we didn't know where we were going."
Dombrowski essentially said the same thing.
"I'm sure there'll be some tough ones," said Dombrowski, his T-shirt dripping but, amazingly, his hair still in perfect place. "We have not even talked about it, because first you gotta get there."
Well, the Tigers are there now, their 3-0 win over the Twins clinching them the American League Central — and a date with the Orioles in the ALDS, starting Thursday in Baltimore.
Two guys expected to be on the playoff-roster bubble are left-hander Kyle Lobstein, who pitched brilliantly in some stressful September starts, and outfielder Tyler Collins. The Tigers might view Lobstein as their best lefty reliever option, and could see Collins as some necessary thump off the bench, as well as a center-field option should Rajai Davis' freak midsection injury not heal swiftly. Collins' case would improve if the Tigers go with just 11 pitchers, thus allowing an extra bench bat.
Asked about specific cases, Ausmus, not surprisingly, said, "I'm not going to get into that right now."
Through the lens
Hmmm, were the White Sox sending a message? A response, perhaps, to the fallout over Binocular-gate?
We might never know for sure, but it was awfully interesting that the White Sox — whom the Tigers had hoped would be giving their very best effort against the Royals on Sunday — didn't start star slugger Jose Abreu or shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
The White Sox officially said they sat with injuries, which is interesting, given Abreu has started every game for nearly a month, and Ramirez had missed just three other games all year. To use the buzzword from the Comerica Park fracas earlier in the week, that's pretty "weak" on Robin Ventura's part.
While the Twins were doing everything possible to make life miserable on the eventual AL Central-champion Tigers, the White Sox were benching their best against the Royals. Predictably, Kansas City won Sunday, 6-4, though Detroit's victory made it a moot point.
Coke appreciates bubbly
Phil Coke is a simple man. He makes good money, but that doesn't mean the Tigers veteran reliever is used to the finer things in life. Take the bottle of Dom Perignon he was cradling in his arms, more than an hour after the Tigers wrapped up the Central. Each player got one, and for many of the Tigers' white-collar stars, it was no big deal.
Coke was impressed with himself.
"This one," he said, peering down at the label, "vintage 2003! This is good stuff, bro."
Then he started to try to read the label, but gave up halfway through.
"If you can't pronounce the label the way it's written," said Coke, "it must be good."
An '80s flashback
Sunday was the first time the Tigers have clinched a division at home since Oct. 4, 1987. And until the late innings Sunday, there were a lot of similarities between this one and that one.
Larry Herndon staked the Tigers to a 1-0 lead with a solo homer early in Game 162 against the Blue Jays in 1987, and Ian Kinsler did the same Sunday. A lefty, Frank Tanana, dazzled in 1987, and another one, David Price, nearly matched him pitch for pitch Sunday. Tanana and Price both earned a 15th win.
But an eighth-inning rally by the Tigers on Sunday pushed a 1-0 lead to 3-0 lead, meaning there wouldn't be another 1-0 shutout like that sunny fall day in 1987. But just as well. Tigers closer Joe Nathan appreciates all the runs he can get.
Altuve does it right
There was no champagne popping for the Astros.
But there was plenty to celebrate in regard to second baseman Jose Altuve, who won his first batting championship. And here's the best part: He played Sunday, rather than sit out and preserve his slim lead over Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez.
Altuve was rewarded, going 2-for-4 to finish at .341. Martinez was 0-for-3, and ended up at .335.
That's how you're supposed to win a batting title, on the field. It was a far cry from the stunt Jose Reyes, then with the Mets, pulled in 2011. In that season finale, Reyes bunted for a single in the first inning, then ordered himself out of the game, thus to protect his lead over the Brewers' Ryan Braun.
The Nationals sure are going into the postseason on a high note, following Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter in the regular-season finale.
Interestingly, the no-hittter was against the Marlins, who, themselves, threw a no-hitter in the 2013 regular-season finale, against the Tigers.
Henderson Alvarez no-hit the Tigers, and was Zimmermann's opposing starter Sunday.
Only three other men in MLB history have thrown a no-hitter in the regular-season finale.