With a 6-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night, the Tigers became the AL Central champions for the second straight year. Now all that's left to do is finish out their final two regular season games and prepare for Game 1 of the AL Division Series this weekend.
Tuesday's pitching matchup will be Detroit's Doug Fister (10-9, 3.38 ERA) opposite Kansas City's Jeremy Guthrie (4-3, 3.18 ERA), both of whom have been outstanding since the All-Star break.
Fister enters at 8-3 with a 2.51 ERA in the second half. The eight victories are tied for the third-most in the AL since the break with only Angels ace Jered Weaver (10) and Tampa Bay's David Price (9) having more. Fister's ERA also ranks as the second lowest behind Price's 2.27.
If that doesn't make things difficult enough for the Royals, the 28-year-old is also coming off a start his opponents probably remember all too well. On Thursday, he struck out an American League record nine consecutive Royals in a no-decision.
"Just an unbelievable performance to set the record," Leyland said after the game. "I'm so happy for him. [He's] a great guy."
"We thought the home-plate umpire was going to go into, what was it, the 'Naked Gun' [umpire scene], it was that type of [performance]," Don Kelly said. "Doug was just on a roll, pumping strikes. It was fun to watch."
It will be no picnic for the Tigers either as Guthrie has excelled with his new team since being traded from the Rockies on July 20. He has gone seven innings or more in eight of his last 10 starts has not taken a loss -- he's 4-0 with six no-decisions.
Guthrie last allowed four runs on three home runs in seven frames vs. Detroit on Thursday.
"The home runs were big swings for them," Guthrie said. "When I let 'em out of the hand, I didn't expect them to go like they did."
The veteran right-hander will try to keep Detroit in the park this time around. Although with third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the hunt for a Triple Crown, they'll certainly be swinging for the fences.
Tigers: Miggy still fighting for Triple Crown
With a playoff appearance now secured, all eyes will be on Cabrera, who has two more games remaining to try and become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Cabrera leads all Triple Crown categories -- batting average, home runs and RBIs -- after launching his 44th homer on Monday. He is hitting .329 compared to Angels outfielder Mike Trout's .323 mark. He has 44 home runs, one ahead of Texas' Josh Hamilton (43), and 137 RBIs.
He is 7-for-23 (.304) with two home runs in his career vs. Guthrie.
Max Scherzer threw all his pitches in a bullpen session Monday, including one throw at his maximum velocity. Afterward, he reported he felt good and that he'd be ready to go for Wednesday. However, it's unclear if he will pitch or be saved for the playoffs.
"I would like to get into a live game," Scherzer said on Monday.
Royals: Moustakas done, Hosmer's status unknown
One day after Mike Moustakas exited a game with left groin tightness, he was back in the lineup. However, his return didn't last long as he was pulled from Monday's game as well.
"Moose is done," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "When he slid into second base, he re-aggravated his groin so with two games left, that's probably going to be it for him."
First baseman Eric Hosmer also remained sidelined. He has a slight tear in his right rotator cuff, which was reexamined and confirmed on Monday. He still hopes to return although it doesn't look likely.
"There's a chance," Yost said.
Fister is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA in seven appearances and five starts vs. the Royals in his career. Guthrie is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 13 appearances and 10 starts against Detroit.
The Tigers clinched a postseason birth in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1934-35 seasons.
On Monday night, Cabrera became the third player in Major League history with at least 201 hits, 44 home runs, 40 doubles and 137 RBIs. Only Babe Ruth in 1921 and Lou Gehrig in '27 and '34 reached that plateau. Albert Belle did it as well in '98, but had 200 hits.