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Tigers clinch third straight AL Central title

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Max Scherzer and the Tigers have won the AL Central. Again. (USATSI)
Max Scherzer and the Tigers have won the AL Central. Again. (USATSI)

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On Wednesday night, the Tigers bested the Twins by a score of 1-0 -- Cy Young frontrunner Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90) twirled another gem -- and in doing so clinched their third consecutive AL Central title. They're now entitled to a bye into the ALDS round of the postseason.

Last season, of course, the Tigers advanced to the World Series, where they were swept by the Giants. The 2013 team, though, is even better. They've already improved their win total by five games with three to play, and their current run differential of +173 is second only to that of the Red Sox.

That's no surprise when you consider the broad-based excellence of Jim Leyland's team this season. They rank second in the AL in runs scored and first in rotation ERA. While the bullpen in the aggregate has been unimpressive, the Tigers do finally have a reliable arm from each side in Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly. There's not much in the way of depth (Bruce Rondon needs to get healthy), but Leyland has more to work with than he during the 2012 pennant run.

Elsewhere, the Detroit defense remains problematic, but the pitching staff with its league-leading K% of 23.2 is uniquely equipped to work around those shortcomings.

Looking ahead, there's still time for the Tigers to catch the Athletics in the race for seeding. They trail Oakland by one game in the overall standings; however, the A's hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 4-3 head-to-head record against Detroit this season. As such, the Tigers will likely match up with the A's in the ALDS and, should the series go the full five, play three games in Oakland.

For now, though, the Tigers will celebrate winning a division that turned out to be quite a bit stronger at the top than most anticipated.

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