Despite being assured of their playoff position, the Detroit Tigers have plenty of drama surrounding the regular season's final day.
Miguel Cabrera looks to wrap up baseball's first Triple Crown in 45 years when the American League Central champions visit the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday (7:10 p.m. CT).
The Tigers (87-74) fell 4-2 to the Royals on Tuesday, as Cabrera went 2-for-3 with a two-run single before being replaced by Omar Infante in the fifth.
'It's a big thing and it should be a big thing.'— Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown pursuit
Cabrera increased his league-leading numbers to a .331 average and 139 runs batted in to go along with his major league-best 44 homers. With Cabrera ahead by big margins in the AL average and RBI races, the only real threat to him becoming the majors' first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 is Texas' Josh Hamilton and his 43 home runs.
Hamilton and the Rangers visit Oakland in a 12:35 p.m. PT start Wednesday, so there's a chance Cabrera will have wrapped up the Triple Crown by the time the first pitch is thrown in Kansas City.
"It's a big thing and it should be a big thing," manager Jim Leyland said. "It really hasn't gotten away from what we're trying to accomplish, and now you feel more at ease talking about it."
Should Cabrera and Hamilton finish tied for the home run lead, Cabrera would still win the Triple Crown, as Yastrzemski did when he finished even with Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers.
Leyland initially said he's unsure whether he'll have Cabrera in the lineup Wednesday, then said the slugger will play if he wants.
"You know, he writes the lineup and I do what he wants," Cabrera said. "I play ball. He's the manager, he's the boss. So whatever he wants to do, we're going to do. I play for the manager."
Cabrera was 4-for-5 with a homer in the opener of this series as the Tigers clinched their second straight division title with Monday's 6-3 win. They're guaranteed to begin the post-season Saturday at home against the division winner with the second-best record.
Scherzer's status unknown
Max Scherzer's status for that series is in question, being forced to miss a second straight scheduled start Wednesday. The 16-game winner became a casualty of Monday's celebration when a teammate apparently stepped on his ankle.
"This is a slightly twisted ankle. You know, swollen, but it doesn't appear to be serious," Leyland said. "But it's obviously serious enough that he won't pitch [Wednesday]."
Leyland said he planned to have the right-hander throw five innings to test his sore right shoulder that forced him to miss his last start.
"I wanted to tell you exactly how it happened so there wouldn't be any speculation about his arm or anything," Leyland said. "This is the scenario we have right now."
Right-hander Luis Marte is scheduled to get his first career start in Scherzer's place. Marte (0-0, 3.32 earned-run average) has made 12 relief appearances this season, most recently giving up one hit in two-thirds of an inning last Wednesday versus Kansas City.
The Royals (72-89) will finish the season with their most victories since the 2003 team went 83-79. They ended a five-game skid to the Tigers on Tuesday as Alcides Escobar went 3-for-4 with a homer and Jeff Francoeur added a solo shot.
Kansas City looks to finish strong with help from Luis Mendoza, who has pitched well of late.
Mendoza (8-9, 4.36) has a 2.37 ERA over his last three starts, including when he gave up four runs - two earned - in seven innings of a 5-4 walkoff loss to Detroit on Thursday.
Cabrera is 4-for-11 (.364) with a homer and three RBIs in his career against the right-hander.
The Tigers, who are 12-5 versus Kansas City this year, haven't lost a season series between the teams since 2008.