Central front-runners got hot at the right time

Central front-runners got hot at the right time

CHICAGO -- No teams know about the Tigers' recent surge to take a stranglehold on the American League Central better than the White Sox and Indians.

As Chicago and Cleveland opened a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday, they were separated by just a half-game in the standings. Unfortunately the second-place White Sox were nine back of Detroit and the Indians were 9 1/2 off the pace following the Tigers' dominant sweeps of each club within the past week.

Though the White Sox were able to stay within striking distance of a division title for much of the season, first baseman Paul Konerko said everyone knew all along that the team that won the AL Central would be the team that won crucial September games. And just more than a week into September, Konerko said the Tigers seem to be that team.

"All year in the Central Division, it was what team is going to come together best in the last month, and so far it was them," Konerko said. "These division things usually come down to a week in September where one team just kind of distances themselves from the others. That was them. As a player, you know when you go out there and you battle and you give it 100 percent and you just get beat, you tip your hat to them."

In their two sweeps, the Tigers scored at least eight runs in five of the six contests, while outscoring the White Sox and Indians by a total of 57-20. For White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, that stretch by the Tigers was simply a sign of things finally coming together for a team that has had the talent to play like that all season.

"That team got better. They just got hot at the right time when they needed it," Guillen said. "They needed to get hot against the White Sox and Cleveland and they did, and that's why they are almost running away with it. Their offense and their pitching staff."