From the moment the big first baseman signed his massive contract in January, an entire city had been waiting for a chance to celebrate like this. After another dazzling effort by Detroit's starting pitchers and another soaring home run by Miguel Cabrera, Fielder caught the final out to send the Tigers to the World Series — with a sweep of the New York Yankees, no less.
"There's still a long way to go but this is an awesome feeling," Fielder said.
Max Scherzer capped a stupendous stretch for Detroit's rotation, and the Tigers won their second pennant in seven years by beating the Yankees 8-1 Thursday for a four-game sweep of the AL championship series.
Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta hit two-run homers in a four-run fourth inning against CC Sabathia, who was unable to prevent the Yankees from getting swept in a post-season series for the first time in 32 years.
"Yeah, we did it," Cabrera said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. ... Four more wins, guys. Four more wins."
Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth against a starting lineup that was again without Alex Rodriguez, who flied out with two on in the sixth as a pinch hitter.
Austin Jackson added a solo shot in the seventh for Detroit, and Peralta hit another homer an inning later.
The game ended with Fielder, Detroit's US$214 million acquisition, catching Jayson Nix's popup. The Tigers spilled onto the field for a celebration that began near second base and eventually moved closer to the third-base line.
General manager Dave Dombrowski hugged Jim Leyland — who is in the final year of his contract — while owner Mike Ilitch rubbed the 67-year-old manager's right shoulder.
"I've got a great bunch. We don't have one hot dog in the bunch," the pizza magnate said. "They're all great guys. ... The Tigers are something special."
... The Tigers are something special."
Detroit won its 11th American League pennant and first since 2006. The Tigers have five days off before the World Series starts Wednesday at defending champion St. Louis or 2010 winner San Francisco.
After scoring in just three of 39 innings during the series, New York headed home to face unpleasant questions about its future following a post-season of awful hitting, benched stars and veterans showing the wear and tear of age. Rodriguez, the $275 million third baseman, was out of the starting lineup for the third time in the playoffs. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera could only watch following season-ending injuries.
The Yankees, with a big league-high $222 million payroll, hit .188 in the post-season — a record low for a team that played at least seven games — and .157 in the LCS. New York went quietly in the ninth inning, with the Comerica crowd chanting "Sweep!" while the last three batters were retired in order.
Detroit outhit New York 16-2 in the finale and 46-22 in the series. The Tigers' starters are 4-1 with a 1.02 ERA in this post-season.
Without a World Series title since 1984, Detroit lost to Texas in last year's ALCS, lost slugger Victor Martinez to a season-ending knee injury in January and quickly replaced his offence by signing Fielder. The excitement of that bold acquisition subsided a bit when the Tigers struggled to a 26-32 start in the AL Central, but they overtook the Chicago White Sox in the final 10 days of the regular season and won the division with an 88-74 record, matching the Cardinals for the fewest wins among the 10 playoff teams.
"I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year, 'You know what? Let's just wait till the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it,'" Leyland said. "So hopefully we've quieted some doubters now. The guys just stepped it up when we had to. We caught a couple breaks when the White Sox couldn't win a couple of games they needed to win."
In the post-season, Detroit's rotation has been impeccable. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister allowed only two earned runs against the Yankees. New York was shut out once and totalled six runs in the series.
"Unbelievable. It's why we're here right now because our pitching," Cabrera said. "Wow!"
Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in 5 2-3 innings in the finale, struck out 10 and walked two.
"I really had my changeup and my slider going," he said. "When I can combine that with my fastball, that's what makes me effective."
The Yankees, without a World Series title since 2009, lost Jeter to a broken ankle in the opening game, and the slumping Rodriguez was benched for Game 3. He was out of the starting lineup for Game 4 too, but A-Rod did have one last chance to turn his post-season around when Scherzer was lifted for left-hander Drew Smyly with two outs in the sixth and the Tigers up 6-1.
As Smyly finished warming up, Rodriguez popped out of the dugout to hit for Raul Ibanez, but with runners at the corners, he hit a routine fly to centre field. He grounded out in the ninth, completing a 3 for 25 (.125) playoffs with no RBIs.
New York owes the 37-year-old Rodriguez $114 million over the next five years. His contract includes a provision that requires he approves trades, and he wants to stay.
"I love New York City and I love everything about being a Yankee," he said. "The highs are very high and the lows are extremely low."
The Yankees failed to win a game in a post-season series for only the fifth time. They hadn't been swept since a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City in 1980. The last team to sweep four straight against them had been Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.
Detroit also beat New York in the division series in 2006 and last year. The Tigers became the first team to win three straight post-season series against the Yankees, according to STATS LLC.
"They threw the ball really well," Rodriguez said. "They outplayed us in every facet of the game and they were the better team."
New York never led in this series — the only other time that's happened to the Yankees was when they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series. The only other team to sweep an LCS without trailing at any point was the 1984 Tigers, who won three straight against Kansas City, STATS said.
After a rainout Wednesday, Game 4 started under a sunny sky, and Detroit immediately took the lead on series MVP Delmon Young's RBI single. Young became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one post-season series, STATS said.
Avisail Garcia drove in an unearned run in the third with a single before the Tigers broke it open in the fourth. Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, made it 4-0 with a towering drive to left field. Peralta drove in two more runs with his shot to the same part of the ballpark.
After Andy Dirks doubled, Sabathia was pulled. He allowed five earned runs and 11 hits in 3 2-3 innings.
"It's embarrassing to me," Sabathia said.
When the fourth inning finally ended, the crowd at Comerica gave the Tigers a standing ovation, sensing that an even bigger celebration wasn't too far off.
Scherzer made sure of that. The right-hander was terrific down the stretch for the Tigers before his throwing shoulder acted up near the end of the regular season. He made it through 5 1-3 innings in the division series against Oakland without allowing an earned run, then kept the Yankees off the scoreboard until Eduardo Nunez tripled in the sixth for New York's first hit and scored on Nick Swisher's double.
"They're a good team with dominant pitching. Give those guys credit — they pitched great," Sabathia said. "And we didn't match them. We pitched good, but not great. They pitched great."
Swisher, likely playing his last game with the Yankees, was 1 for 35 with runners in scoring position in his post-season career before that hit. He struck out with two on and two outs in the third.
About the only thing the Yankees had done well in this post-season was pitch, and Sabathia failed to keep that going. He didn't have much help from his defence. Teixeira, a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base, misplayed two grounders in the third — one for an infield hit and one for an error.
New York's hitting was abysmal throughout the playoffs. Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher hit .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs, Russell Martin hit .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI and Eric Chavez finished 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts.
"It wasn't one guy. It wasn't two guys," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was a bunch of guys."
NOTES: Detroit closer Jose Valverde, who allowed four runs in Game 1, did not pitch again in the series. ... Cabrera has a hit in a record 17 straight LCS games. He's reached base in all 20 of his post-season games with the Tigers, a team record. ... Sabathia was 4-0 in his previous eight post-season starts. ... Thursday was the 35th anniversary of Reggie Jackson's three-homer game for the Yankees in the World Series against the Dodgers. ... New York scored seven runs at Baltimore in the division series opener, then was held to four or fewer in the next eight games. The Yankees' longest previous stretch like that in post-season play came in 2001, when they were held to four or fewer runs in all seven games of the World Series by Arizona.