MINNEAPOLIS — There was no celebrating in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse after their latest victory. No need for goggles or champagne just yet.
The Tigers are back in the playoffs for a third straight season, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize. And they won’t be partying until that AL Central championship is back in their hands again.
Doug Fister struck out seven and the Tigers homered three times in the fourth inning to clinch a playoff berth with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Victor Martinez and Omar Infante went back-to-back and Austin Jackson hit a two-run homer later in the fourth to put the Tigers in front. Fister (14-9) gave up two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings to help Detroit secure at least an AL wild card.
“I guess it’s OK,” manager Jim Leyland said with a shrug. “We’re not celebrating because we haven’t done what we want to do.”
Cleveland rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning to prevent the Tigers from clinching their third straight division title. One more Tigers win or Indians loss will lock it up for Detroit.
Scott Diamond (6-12) gave up four runs on nine hits in 6 1-3 innings, and Ryan Doumit homered for the Twins.
The Tigers entered needing a victory and a loss by the Indians to win the division. For a moment, it looked as though this was going to be Detroit’s night when the White Sox homered twice in the top of the ninth to take a 4-3 lead over the Indians. But Jason Giambi hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the inning to keep the Indians alive in the division race.
“At this point, we’re going to do it ourselves,” Fister said. “We don’t like relying on anybody. We want to play our best baseball and earn it ourselves.”
The Tigers, swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series last season, would like to clinch as soon as possible to allow them to give star slugger Miguel Cabrera a few days off to rest a sore groin.
Cabrera sat out Sunday, but has gutted through the first two games at Target Field to try to put this division race away. He went 0 for 4 and could barely make it down the first base line on his two groundouts, but the rest of the Tigers’ lineup came up with just enough muscle in support of their ailing cleanup hitter.
Leyland said before the game that his loaded lineup needed to start putting up big run totals on a more consistent basis as October looms. He’s watched his powerful lineup follow up big nights at the plate with underwhelming performances this season.
“We need to score more runs,” he said. “Plain and simple.”
They didn’t get off to a good start when they failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the second inning against Diamond. But the Tigers finally got to the Canadian lefty in the fourth when Martinez led off with a liner into the left-field seats. Infante followed with a solo shot of his own and Jackson launched his 12th homer into the left-center bullpen for a 4-1 lead.
“Everything kind of just comes in clumps for me,” Diamond said. “That’s just the way it’s been this season. I’ve been consistently bad for one inning.”
After taking a 3-0 advantage into the eighth inning Monday night and eventually losing 4-3 in 11, the Tigers didn’t let this one get away. Fister gave up a solo homer to Doumit in the seventh to make it 4-2. But Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and Bruce Rondon, who pitched for the first time since Sept. 2 because of an elbow injury, got the ball to Joaquin Benoit, who picked up his 23rd save in 24 chances.
Jackson and Torii Hunter each had three hits, and Rondon struck out the side in the eighth.
“The goggles will have to wait,” Hunter said with a wry grin. “We’ll just see what happens.”
NOTES: Tigers LHP Phil Coke returned to Detroit to have an MRI on his ailing left elbow. Leyland said Coke felt more tightness in his elbow in the morning. … Martinez’s homer extended his hitting streak to 11 games. … Chris Parmelee had three hits for the Twins. … RHP Max Scherzer (20-3, 3.00 ERA) pitches for the Tigers on Wednesday night against Minnesota RHP Kevin Correia (9-12, 4.29).