Inside Pitch: Tigers Head to NYC for ALDS

Despite a sweep of the Indians completed on Wednesday, the Tigers were unable to pass Texas for second best league in the American League, and so they'll begin the 2011 postseason on the road, facing the Yankees in New York.

Tigers ready for playoff series with Yankees

One season is over and another begins.

Detroit finished a season that brought 95 victories and an AL Central championship with a 5-4 victory over Cleveland on Jhonny Peralta's leadoff home run in the eighth.

Now the Tigers begin their second season, the playoffs, which begin Friday in New York against the Yankees.

"We had a great season," Jim Leyland said. "Now we start a new season. It is a little difference.

"You play them one at a time in the regular season but you also think about winning a series. The playoffs, it really is day-to-day.

"I'm proud of this team. It's pretty hard to say we haven't done pretty good during the regular season. Winning 95 games, that's pretty good."

Leyland lauded his team for playing well down the stretch and then keeping its focus after clinching the division on Sept. 16.

"Of any team I've ever managed," Leyland said, "I've never had one go on a run like we did at the end of the season."

Justin Verlander won 24 games and is generally viewed as the Cy Young winner and a viable MVP candidate. Miguel Cabrera had two hits in his last game of the regular season, boosting his average to .344 and clinching him his first batting title. Victor Martinez meshed well with his new team and provided Leyland with good protection for Cabrera in the lineup.

"We have two guys who could win the MVP and a third guy who could be mentioned," Leyland said.

Now the playoffs loom.

"I have no idea how it will turn out," he said. "We could lose three straight games -- or we could win the World Series."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Rick Porcello had one shaky inning out of six in his tuneup for the playoffs. Porcello, the unannounced starter for the fourth playoff game, gave up five hits in six innings. He gave up two runs in the fourth but didn't let the inning spiral out of control after giving up two hits and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. He was keeping his sinker low in the strike zone and showing a good slider and changeup. Porcello, hounded by left-handed batters all year long, held southpaws to 5-for-20.

--1B Miguel Cabrera nailed down his first batting title with a single and double, boosting his average to .344. "I get to watch him every day so I know how good he is," C Alex Avila said. "Now maybe other people will recognize how good he is." "He's a star," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's going to be good until Father Time catches up with him."

--RHP Al Alburquerque is a rarity in today's game of specialized relief pitchers. Alburquerque is a pitcher who can be brought into an inning with men on base yet have a high likelihood of extracting his team with no runs scoring. His wipeout slider gives him a chance for a strikeout with runners on third. He was brought in after RHP Rick Porcello gave up a leadoff double in the seventh and saw the runner take third on a groundout to third. Alburquerque put his slider to work, striking out Ezequiel Carrerra on a 1-2 pitch for the second out and, after hitting RF Kosuke Fukudome, ending the threat by getting 2B Jason Kipnis to ground out to first on a 3-2 pitch. In the playoffs, he'll likely be used in the sixth and seventh, maybe even the fifth.

--SS Jhonny Peralta drilled the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning for a tie-breaking and game-winning home run, his 21st of the season. Peralta has faltered a little over the last couple weeks but some of that has to be attributed to the fact he no longer has C Alex Avila hitting behind hm. Peralta also had a sacrifice fly in the two-run sixth, tying the score 3-3.

--DH Victor Martinez was removed for a pinch-hitter in seventh inning. "In his first at-bat, he fouled a ball off his big toe," manager Jim Leyland said. "Eventually it filled with blood and they had to drain it. So I took him out for a pinch-hitter. He'll be OK." Martinez had grounded a single to right in that second-inning at-bat, then grounded another single to right in the fourth and lined a single to left in the sixth.

--RHP Ryan Perry got his second win of the season -- but only after giving up the tying run in the top of the eighth. Perry got the first out of the eighth easily enough but then surrendered a double. Two walks later, he was looking at the bases loaded and one out. He gave up a sacrifice fly but got out of the inning with a force-out at second. He shows a better slider than earlier in the year and is doing a better job with his fastball -- except once in awhile.

--RHP Justin Verlander won the Triple Crown for pitchers following the news that Los Angeles Angels RHP Jered Weaver wouldn't pitch again this season. Verlander finished with a 2.40 ERA, .01 ahead of Weaver. Verlander allowed five runs in his last start but did not give up any in the last four innings he worked. Verlander led the league in wins, 24, and strikeouts, 250. He is the first AL pitching Triple Crown winner since LHP Johan Santana did so for Minnesota in 2006. He's the first Detroit pitcher to do it since LHP Hal Newhouser in 1945.

--3B Wilson Betemit doubled and tripled to go with a walk in his final tuneup for the playoffs. Betemit came out for a pinch-runner after his triple and manager Jim Leyland explained that he wanted fresh legs in there. IF Danny Worth pinch ran for Betemit and stayed in the game at third.

--RHP Jose Valverde converted his 49th save in as many chances, allowing a two-out double before ending the game with his second strikeout. Valverde's fastball was 94-96 mph and he used a couple of split-fingers as well. Manager Jim Leyland expressed some reluctance to use him after Valverde got his 48th save the night before. "He was pumped," Leyland said. "He was going to take the ball whether we gave it to him or not."

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Consecutive Detroit victories over Cleveland dating back to Aug. 11 this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wish all of them didn't do so well. It makes it look like anybody can manage this team." -- Manager Jim Leyland, on his key players steering Detroit to a 95-win season.

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