DETROIT - This is what Detroit Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch dreamed about when he pulled the trigger on the $214-million, free-agent contract for Prince Fielder.
Ilitch thought the move would give his team a chance to not only get to the World Series, but win it.
The Tigers punched their ticket to the World Series Thursday night when Fielder caught the final out in an 8-1 American League Championship Series victory over the New York Yankees at Comerica Park.
Fielder and Miguel Cabrera jumped around on the field and hugged each other in celebration. The Yankees -- who never led in the entire series -- sat stone-faced and watched in horror.
"We did it," Cabrera said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. It's what we worked for all year. We want to win a World Series for Detroit."
DH Delmon Young won the ALCS MVP. Young hit .294 with two homers and eight RBI. The Yankees only scored six runs in the entire series.
The easy-as-pie victory gave Detroit a four-game sweep of the Bronx Bombers and sent the Tigers to the World Series first the first time since 2006.
"It's great,'' said Young when asked about going to the World Series. "As a child growing up, your dream's always winning the Game 7 in the World Series, walk-off hit. So it's fun knowing you get to go there and especially my childhood dream was playing shortstop next to Chipper Jones, trying to beat the Yankees in the World Series."
Granted, this series wasn't as much about the team's big boppers like Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, although Cabrera hit a huge two-run homer to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. The route was on as the Tigers collected a team-record 16 hits in a postseason game.
Still, it was about the Tigers' starting pitching. It was superb in the series, giving up just two earned runs. Granted, the Yankees were in a team-wide hitting slump. But clearly, it was the pitching that got the Tigers into the Fall Classic.
The Tigers will open the World Series in either St. Louis or San Francisco next Wednesday.
-- Prince Fielder
"It's a dream come true,'' said Fielder, in his first season in Detroit. "We still have a ways to go, but I'm going to enjoy this. I've never made it past this round."
The Tigers will need the same kind of pitching to nail down this franchise's fifth World Series title.
The Tigers held the Yankees to a .157 team batting average in the ALCS, the second-lowest total among 172 teams that have competed in the LCS since 1969. Only the 1969 Minnesota Twins (.155) posted a lower team batting average in the LCS.
"I have the utmost respect for them,'' said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who has now won three straight postseason series against the Yankees. "If someone would have told me we would sweep the Yankees in this series, I would have told them they were crazy. A little luck, some pretty good pitching obviously, and a couple of hits at the right time and sometimes you get on a roll that's pretty good."
The last time the Yankees had been swept in a seven-game series was by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series.
"I told them it's tough," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose franchise went 36 straight postseason series without being swept, a record for any MLB team. "This is never easy. We've been -- I've been on both sides. It's never easy. There is only one team that's going to be happy when the year ends."
For Ilitch, it's another shot at the one thing that has eluded him. He's won four Cups as owner of the Red Wings. But everyone knows, Ilitch is a baseball guy, a former minor leaguer, who wants nothing more than to win a World Series for his city.
It's what Leyland wants, too. This could very well be it for him as manager -- win or lose.
Leyland, who won World Series with the Marlins, doesn't have a contract for next season. Plus, Leyland saw his friend Tony LaRussa retire after winning a World Series last season with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Leyland thought it was the greatest way to exit the game, a story-book ending. It's no secret Leyland would love to do the same thing.
"I never talked about the Manager of the Year awards or the World Series,'' Leyland said. "I don't really care about stuff like that. I appreciate it, but I don't care about it."
Still, Leyland has that chance and so do the Tigers.
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