DETROIT, OCT. 13 -- The Tigers won the American League East with an awe-inspiring final week of pitching, defense and clutch hitting. They exited the league's championship series with heads held high, in the classy manner in which they conducted the regular season.

There was Darrell Evans, who committed three errors in the series and got picked off third base in Game 4, answering the same three or four questions for nearly 45 minutes, never raising his voice. There was Kirk Gibson, acknowledging that he didn't play very well. And there was Doyle Alexander, who usually does not suffer fools gladly, talking freely about his subpar playoff.

The Tigers said over and over that the Minnesota Twins outplayed them in all areas. But the Tigers also wanted the world to know that they won the most games in baseball this season, and merely lost a short series.

The Twins became just the second playoff winner to reach the World Series with fewer than 90 victories. In 1973, the New York Mets, with 82 victories, knocked off the Cincinnati Reds, who had 102 regular season wins.

"The Twins did everything better than we did in this series," said Alexander, who was 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA against the Twins, lasting only nine innings in two starts. "But then again, I don't think we did the things we did to win the {AL East} division."

"I'm happy to get rid of them," Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson said. "Four times is enough. I don't need to get no more beating."

He expressed his affection for 37-year-old Twins Manager Tom Kelly, 17 years' Anderson's junior and in his first playoff. Anderson was managing his seventh championship series.

"Tom Kelly is a manager who worked hard in the minor leagues and came forward and taught these players to go out and have fun and play," Anderson said. "It was the same exact thing when I came up to manage my first year. . . . This ballclub came in here with more get up and go than ever I have ever played against in a playoff -- and I was whipped by the Mets."

Some of the numbers suggested a close-fought series. The Tigers hit .240, the Twins .269. The Tigers hit seven homers, the Twins eight.

But the important differences were subtle. Minnesota scored 34 runs to Detroit's 23. But after Game 1, the Twins scored 14 of their 26 runs after two men were out. Detroit scored four with two out.

The 3-4 hitters on both teams did not have great series (Minnesota's Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek hit .208 and .150; Detroit's Gibson and Trammell, .286 and .200).

But look to the leadoff men. The Twins' Dan Gladden hit .350, with five RBI and five runs. Detroit's Lou Whitaker hit .176, with one RBI and four runs, although he did draw seven walks.

"They were very patient at the plate," Evans said. "They're usually free-swingers."

"They're probably the best breaking-ball team I've ever seen," said injured Bill Madlock. "They hit just about every breaking ball in this series."

But the Tigers did not play well, and they didn't use their two-week battle with Toronto to win the AL East as an excuse.

"You look at us, and the way we played," Trammell said, "but in this clubhouse, I don't think you'll find anybody who thinks there was a letdown."

"We were prepared for the series," outfielder Chet Lemon said, "mentally and physically. We sent our guys out there. The Twins just outplayed us."

The other Detroit players seemed to take their cue from Evans, 40, who has emerged as the team's leader on and off the field. Most of the 47,448 fans at Tiger Stadium Monday stood and cheered when he came to the plate in the first.

"It was unexpected," he said. "It was very nice. You can't play these things down. I guess I should enjoy them more. The fans really get behind us as people as well as athletes."

Gibson has talked admiringly of Evans throughout the series, but especially after Evans was picked off third base in Game 4 and committed two errors when forced to play third.

"I think {the standing ovation} was well-deserved," Gibson said. "Let's put it this way. A select few fans booed him last night. I don't expect it to happen to me when I swing at a bad pitch. I didn't expect it to happen to Darrell. It was a nice gesture."