Chicago got a clinch, not a collapse.
Paul Konerko homered to back Freddy Garcia and lead the White Sox over the Detroit Tigers, 4-2, Thursday at Detroit for Chicago’s first AL Central title since 2000.
Chicago had a 15-game lead in the division on Aug. 1, then saw it dwindle to 1 1/2 games as Cleveland closed. The White Sox survived a shaky ninth inning to win their AL-best 96th game and will start the playoffs at home next week.
“First of all, I feel proud of my players,” Chicago Manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We went through a lot, a lot of tough times.”
Chicago clinched because Cleveland can at best tie the White Sox, and no team can finish second in another division with 96 wins or more. If the AL Central is decided by a tiebreaker, it would go to the White Sox, who have an 11-5 lead over the Indians in the season series, and Cleveland would be the wild card.
“It’s a great feeling,” Guillen said. “This first step is a big step because a lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to just get to the playoffs.”
Cleveland 6, Tampa Bay 0 -- C.C. Sabathia pitched eight shutout innings, Travis Hafner homered and the Indians stayed tied atop the AL wild-card standings by rolling over the Devil Rays at Cleveland.
Sabathia (15-10) gave up five hits and improved to 9-1 in his last 11 starts as the Indians ended a three-game losing streak and Tampa Bay’s five-game win streak at Jacobs Field.
He walked two, struck out nine, and the 290-pound left-hander even outran Aubrey Huff to first after barehanding the outfielder’s comebacker to end the fourth.
In the fifth, Sabathia retired the side on just three pitches.
New York 8, Baltimore 4 -- Aaron Small’s clutch pitching at Baltimore moved the Yankees closer to their eighth consecutive AL East title.
Small took a one-hitter into the seventh inning to improve to 10-0, and the Yankees got homers from Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui in cruising past the Orioles.
Alex Rodriguez had two hits and scored twice for the Yankees, who built an 8-0 lead in winning for the 15th time in 18 games. New York is one game ahead of Boston heading into their three-game series this weekend at Fenway Park.
Boston 5, Toronto 4 -- David Ortiz tied the score in the eighth inning with his 47th homer, then singled home the winning run in the ninth to give the Red Sox a critical win at Boston.
Boston trailed, 4-1, and a loss would have dropped the Red Sox two games behind New York in the AL East and one game behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.
Manny Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the sixth off Jason Frasor that cut the deficit to 4-3, and rookie Jonathan Papelbon (3-1) pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.
Seattle 4, Texas 3 -- Kenny Rogers gave up four runs at Seattle in what was probably his final start for the Rangers.
Rogers (14-8) was quoted as saying in Thursday’s editions of the Dallas Morning News: “I’m pretty certain this is my last start here. Actually, I’m extremely certain. I think everybody has made their positions known.”
Kansas City 10, Minnesota 6 -- Mike Sweeney went three for four with a homer and five RBIs at Minneapolis, helping the Royals (55-104) avoid setting the club record for losses in a season.
The Red Sox acquired left-hander Mike Stanton from the Washington Nationals for minor league right-handers Rhys Taylor and Yader Peralta. Boston’s trade means Stanton, 38, could wind up pitching this weekend against his former team, the New York Yankees.