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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

UPDATED: Tigers clincher will be televised

Amazing how quickly things can change.
Just a few weeks ago, we were wondering if this American League Central wouldn't be a nail-biter of a race down to the final three-game series of the regular season, with the Tigers and Indians facing off at Comerica. Had to make sure that ace Justin Verlander was lined up to pitch in that series, remember?

Then, once the Tigers got insanely hot, and the magic number slowly crept (actually hurtled would be a better term) toward single digits, a few of us tried our hand at the odd math involved in a three-way race, trying to predict when the Tigers might actually clinch their first AL Central title ever. (Yep, to review, the Tigers' LAST title was in the AL East, 24 years ago. And I was a sophomore in high school.)

The best guess that we could put on it was that the Tigers might be able to clinch at the earliest by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. More likely than not, it would come either in a three-game visit to Oakland or a two-game set at Kansas City, especially if one of the two teams chasing them got hot — ala the Twins of old.

Then, all of a sudden, people began to remember that one of two games on the schedule that were never intended to be televised also fell in that stretch: Saturday's 4:05 p.m. start in Oakland. Scheduled by the A's as a day game — a 1:05 start Pacific Time, or 4:05 Eastern — it falls within FOX's exclusive broadcast window. A similar situation happened with ESPN for the Tigers' rain-induced Sunday doubleheader with the Boston Red Sox in May.

Once it became clear that might be a very, very meaningful game for the Tigers, a concerted behind-the-scenes effort — like happened in May — was made to get it put on the air. There were reports Wednesday that it would be broadcast on FOX 2, rather than the Tigers' normal broadcast partner, FOX Sports Detroit. The broadcast schedule on the Tigers' website has also listed "FOX" for the carrier for most of Wednesday afternoon and evening.

But there's still been no direct confirmation from the Tigers. FOX Sports Detroit confirmed on Twitter early Thursday afternoon that MLB On FOX had helped broker a deal to get the game on the air in Michigan and Toledo, Ohio. [HERE is the full story from FOX Sports Detroit on the decision.] The Tigers confirmed it with a release shortly thereafter.

At this point, however, the point may be entirely moot. The Tigers are doing their level best to meet the earliest possible clinch scenarios, pushing their win streak to a ridiculous level, coming from three runs down to win with a pair of pinch-hit home runs in the ninth. The 12-game win streak is the franchise's longest since the World Series year in 1934. (Which is a year before my dad was BORN!)

Thanks to Wednesday's come-from-behind win — and the Indians' 9-1 loss to Texas later in the night — Tigers' magic number dropped to just two, meaning that it would take just one more win by the Tigers and one loss by the Indians to set champagne corks a-popping. It might be all over by Saturday.

By continuing to push the pedal to the floor, and ignoring everything going on around them, the Tigers have taken any suspense out of the situation.

"I will say one thing: Up to this point, we're not backing in," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters after Wednesday's game.

No. Not even a little bit.

They could be the second team (after the Phillies) to clinch a playoff berth, and the first to clinch a division title.

They could be faster to clinch than either the 1984 or 1968 teams, which they've already passed for the longest win streak.

"This team is special," starting pitcher Brad Penny said on Twitter Wednesday night.

[NOTE: In making the announcement of the broadcast of Saturday's game, FOX Sports Detroit also noted that, should the Tigers clinch on Saturday, the network would break into regularly-scheduled programming to show the locker room celebration.]

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