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Detroit — He didn't scream at the top of his lungs or jubilantly throw his hat and glove into the air.

No, when Alex Avila caught the final out of Game 162 Sunday, a 3-0 victory that sent the Tigers to their fourth straight AL Central Division title, Ian Kinsler' first reaction was, "Shew."

"There's always a 'shew' unless you are 10 games up or something like that," said Kinsler, who might have been, with all due respect to starting pitcher David Price, the Tigers' MVP Sunday. "This game is weird. It's abnormal. It's very unpredictable, regardless of the score, the flow of it or how you feel it's going to end. This game finds a way to shock you.

"So there is always a sigh of relief at the end."

Especially for this Tigers team. An immensely talented but bi-polar group capable of starting the season 27-12 and then going 10-20 over the next 30; a team capable of blowing a 7½-game lead in the division in about a month; a team that had been blown out 23-7 in the two previous games by the last-place Twins.

So, yes, a 3-0 lead in the ninth was no time to feel snug and secure.

"Going through this season, with all the ups and downs and the amount of adversity we faced this year — that had something to do with the sigh of relief," Kinsler said.

Kinsler has had his ups and downs this season, too. He came into the game having scratched out just two hits in his previous 20 at-bats. But with the division title on the line, he responded. When Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson left the game in the eighth inning, he had given up four hits and three runs — Kinsler got three of the hits, including his 17th home run of the season in the third, and he knocked in two of the three runs.

He, in short, provided all the offense Price would need.

"He's a catalyst for us," Avila said. "Offensively, he can beat you with a home run or a base hit or with his legs. But he makes run-saving plays in the field, as well. Without him, we wouldn't be here."

Kinsler's defense has been a marvel. He has, as manager Brad Ausmus has said repeatedly, played Gold Glove-level second base all season. But those who select Gold Glove recipients need only to review the tape from Sunday.

"Kins was incredible today," Price said.

Seven of the first 10 balls the Twins put into play Sunday were hit to Kinsler. Not all of them were routine, though he made most of them look like it. He took a couple of potential hits away from Joe Mauer on plays where he had to range to his left. He made a good stop of a hard-hit ball by Eduardo Escobar with two on in the fourth to help Price escape a jam.

It was clinical work, and Kinsler will acknowledge that his offseason workout regimen, through which he shed some excess weight, has helped him play perhaps the best defense of his career.

"Right now I assess it as good as it can get," he said with a smile, meaning it was good enough to help the Tigers win the division. But he added that this was no time to be counting up the accolades.

"It's tough to sit back and look at the big picture. We still have things to accomplish," he said. "In the offseason you think about the season a little bit, but I am having a lot of fun playing baseball right now. It's a lot of fun to be hitting in front of Torii (Hunter), Miggy (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez). I am seeing a lot of fastballs and getting a lot of opportunities to swing the bat.

"It all comes down to helping the team as much as possible and this year I think I've been pretty good at it."

Kinsler was among a group of players who ran back out onto the field to spray the fans with champagne afterwards. And he was in the thick of the clubhouse celebration, as well. So, there was plenty of jubilation after the initial sigh.

"There's nothing like it," he said. "There's nothing like celebrating a championship. We're Central Division champs — there's no way to describe it. You work so hard through the offseason, every single guy in there committed to a championship, and to have it come through is a great feeling.

"Hopefully I can come up with a word for you by the end of the playoffs. Right now I don't have one."

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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