Tigers take over the Central again (maybe this time they'll hold it)

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
Omar Infante, Delmon Young and the Tigers might not be in any rush to leave their spot atop the AL Central. (AP)

This is where it turns in the American League Central, right?

Yes . . . except that's also what we said 42 days ago.

That's what we said when the Tigers swept the White Sox to finally take over the division lead . . . in July . . . only to give it back four days later.

Yes, it looks like the Tigers' division now, now that they've swept the White Sox again, now that they've pulled into a first-place tie with the White Sox.

It looks like the Tigers' division now . . . or does it just look like that because so many (all?) of us have assumed they would win it, ever since the day they signed Prince Fielder?

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The Tigers have Justin Verlander, who Sunday night justified his reputation as baseball's best pitcher. The Tigers have Miguel Cabrera, who might well be baseball's best hitter.

The Tigers haven't played as well as they were supposed to play. But it was only a matter of time.

That's right, isn't it?

That's what we said in July, too. That's what we said after the last sweep, the one that ended with the Tigers leading the White Sox by 1 1/2 games in the Central.

Then the Tigers went to Cleveland and lost two of three to the Indians. The Tigers were back in second place, where they remained . . . until now.

Now the Tigers and White Sox are tied, with 29 games to go. Except that now it feels like the Tigers are ahead, because we always expected them to be ahead, and because they just swept the White Sox for the second time in six weeks.

"We're going to have to beat them head-to-head, that's for sure," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton had said, earlier in July.

It always feels that way. It felt that way for the 2010 Reds, who were swept at home by the Cardinals in August to fall out of first place . . . and went on to win the division, anyway.

In the AL Central this year, the Tigers look like the better team. They've looked like the better team all along, even when the standings didn't say it.

They look like the better team now, with Delmon Young heating up, with Max Scherzer dominating, with Doug Fister apparently healthy.

Just remember, we've said that before, only to see the Tigers slip, only to see the White Sox recover.

The Tigers and White Sox will meet again, for four games, in Chicago, starting on Sept. 10. Perhaps those games will be decisive. Perhaps that's when the AL Central race will turn.

Or perhaps it turned this weekend.

It feels like it did, doesn't it?

Just like in July.

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