DETROIT -- The Chicago White Sox hooted, hollered and screamed like kids as they ran down a skinny hallway toward their plastic-lined clubhouse.
After flirting with one of the worst collapses in baseball history, the White Sox earned the right to douse each other with champagne.
Chicago got a clinch, not a collapse.
"That team worked so hard all year long, they deserve to do what they're doing now," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said with champagne-slicked hair. "Finally, they can say, 'We did it!' A lot of teams made it tough on us. It wasn't easy."
Chicago had a 15-game lead in the division on Aug. 1, then saw it dwindle to 1½ games last weekend as Cleveland closed. The White Sox survived a shaky ninth inning against Detroit to win their AL-best 96th game and will start the playoffs at home next week.
"It was a little tight at the end, but we pulled it out," Konerko said.
Chicago clinched because Cleveland can at best tie the White Sox, and no team can finish second in another division with 96 wins or more. If the AL Central is decided by a tiebreaker, it would go to the White Sox, who have an 11-5 lead over the Indians in the season series, and Cleveland would be the wild card.
"It's a great feeling," Guillen said. "This first step is a big step because a lot of people don't realize how hard it is to just get to the playoffs."
The White Sox close the regular season with three games at Cleveland.
What does the series mean?
"Nothing," said Mark Buehrle, Friday's scheduled starter.
Carl Everett's two-run triple in the first helped the White Sox win their second straight and fifth in seven games.
Garcia (14-8) allowed two runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings.
"It was a big game for him," Guillen said.
After Placido Polanco's leadoff single in the eighth, Garcia was replaced by Cliff Politte, who gave up an RBI double to Magglio Ordonez that made it 4-2. Neal Cotts then struck out Carlos Pena and Bobby Jenks got Craig Monroe to ground out, ending the inning.
The White Sox had a chance to add to their lead in the ninth, but Monroe threw out A.J. Pierzynski at the plate and Pablo Ozuna hit an inning-ending groundout.
Fittingly, the White Sox continued to make it tough on themselves in the bottom of the ninth.
"One of the reasons we picked each guy on this team is we wanted a bunch of fighters, guys that could be resilient," general manager Kenny Williams said.
Detroit stranded two runners in the second and third innings, then didn't have more than one baserunner against Garcia until the seventh, when his wild pitch made it 4-1.
In the third and seventh, second baseman Willie Harris made two fantastic plays -- up the middle and in the hole. He also hit a sacrifice fly in the second.
It was the home finale for Detroit, where Alan Trammell might have managed the Tigers for the last time. A victory away from matching last season's total of 72, the Tigers have failed to meet modest projections and many expect that to cost Detroit's former star shortstop to lose his job as soon as Monday.
"I hope I get to continue with this because there is some unfinished business," said Trammell, who has one year left on his contract. "I'm going to be in baseball for many more years, whether it is here or not. I'm not done. I'm confident that I can do this."
Jason Grilli (1-1) gave up four runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings.
Trammell said the White Sox deserved to celebrate after winning the last two games of the four-game series.
"You would like to hold them off as long as possible and to be honest, we did that," Trammell said. "Congratulations to the White Sox. They've had a heck of a year."
- Detroit C Ivan Rodriguez has not played since straining his calf Monday.
- Crede rejoined the team about 90 minutes before the game after going to Missouri, where his wife gave birth Tuesday.
- Konerko joined Frank Thomas (1995-96) as the only White Sox to hit 40 homers in back-to-back seasons.