Tigers: It wasn't as easy as many expected, but Detroit (88-74) finally wrested the AL Central title away from the fading Chicago White Sox down the stretch to reach the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1934-35. ... Cabrera's charge to the Triple Crown began in earnest on Aug. 1. Since then, he's hit .344 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 57 games. ... Verlander threw a career-high six complete games and is in contention for a second straight Cy Young Award. ... From June 17 on, Scherzer went 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA. He was slowed by a shoulder problem in late September, but pitched four innings in the regular-season finale and seems good to go for the playoffs. ... The Tigers grounded into a major league-leading 156 double plays. They stole 59 bases, the second-fewest in the majors. ... Detroit manager Jim Leyland is making his seventh postseason appearance. He is 32-28 in postseason games. ... The Tigers lost to Texas in the 2011 AL championship series and signed Fielder last winter after slugger Victor Martinez sustained a season-ending knee injury. ... Sanchez allowed only 13 earned runs in his last eight starts. Five of them were in one game — against the A's on Sept. 20. ... After going all of 2011 without blowing a save, Valverde was a more pedestrian 35 for 40 this year. ... Benoit's 3.68 ERA was his highest since 2008. He allowed 14 homers, his most since he became exclusively a reliever. ... Fielder played 162 games for the third time in four years. ... The Tigers have four regulars with an OPS of at least .856 — Cabrera, Fielder, Dirks and Jackson. Then it's a substantial drop to Avila at .736. ... Backup catcher Gerald Laird provided a lift by hitting .282 in 63 games. ... Detroit finished sixth in the AL in runs. The Tigers were 10th in homers — with Cabrera and Fielder accounting for more than 45 percent of the team's total of 163.
— Swingin' A's. Few teams relied on the home run ball as much as the Athletics, who were second-to-last in the league in batting average. Oakland went 78-38 when homering in a game and 41-14 when hitting at least two. The A's were just 16-30 when they failed to go deep.
— Heart of the Order. Cabrera was intentionally walked five times in last year's postseason — and that was before he went out and won the Triple Crown. One way to approach the Tigers is to limit the damage Cabrera and Fielder can do and hope for rally-killing double-play balls from other hitters. Easier said than done.
— Mighty 'Pen. Oakland's bullpen was young but effective, with Cook making the All-Star team as a rookie and converted first baseman Doolittle providing a midseason boost less than a year after changing positions. The big key came when Balfour won back his closing job Aug. 11, He converted all 17 save chances down the stretch.
— Making Contact. Detroit's defense hasn't been pretty — Jackson is the team's only real standout with the glove. But the Tigers' fielding issues won't be much of a problem in this series if Verlander, Scherzer and Co. prevent the strikeout-prone A's from making contact in the first place.