DETROIT (AP) - Phil Coke stormed into Jim Leyland's office and sprayed the veteran manager with some of Detroit's celebratory bubbly.
When Leyland tried to take cover in a bathroom, Coke chased him - a fitting scene involving an unsung reliever whose role changed with little warning and a skipper who never stopped believing in his team.
"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."
Detroit’s Prince Fielder celebrates in the locker room after his team won Game 4 of the American League championship series 8-1, against the New York Yankees, Thursday.
Leyland and the Tigers are heading to the World Series now. Max Scherzer capped a stupendous stretch for Detroit's rotation, and the Tigers won their second pennant in seven years by beating the New York Yankees 8-1 Thursday for a four-game sweep of the AL championship series.
Miguel 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 postseason series for the first time in 32 years.
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 offense by signing Prince 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.
Through it all, Leyland kept an even keel. There was urgency in the Detroit clubhouse, but never panic. The closest the manager came to a major change of course was when closer Jose Valverde gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 against the Yankees.
Detroit won that game anyway, and Coke got the save in Games 2 and 3 in Valverde's place. Coke also was on the mound at the end of the finale.
"It's been really fun," Coke said. "It's been a blast. I couldn't ask for a better opportunity than have us going to the World Series, have a chance to participate and do the best job I can for the team."
The game ended with Fielder, Detroit's $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 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," Ilitch said. "They're all great guys. ... 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.
The Yankees, with a big league-high $222 million payroll, hit .188 in the postseason - a record low for a team that played at least seven games - and .157 in the LCS.
In the postseason, 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 totaled six runs in the series.
"We all know what's at stake, we all know every single game's different, we need to go out there and pitch our best," Scherzer said. "When we do that, that's when we give the team a chance to win."
Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in 5 2-3 innings, struck out 10 and walked two.
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 in the first. Young became the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series.
CARDS 8, GIANTS 3
ST. LOUIS (AP) - One more win and another bunch of wild-card Cardinals get their chance to repeat. Adam Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and St. Louis roughed up Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants to take a 3-1 NLCS lead.