My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”
Week of 7/20-7/26: 4-3
This week: 7/27-29: at Tex; 7/31-8/2: at Cle
Goat of the Week
Once again, even though the Tigers went 4-3 last week, including taking three of four from the White Sox over the weekend, the goat is still the overall team offense, for dropping two more 2-1 games last week, at home against Seattle.
Armando Galarraga’s one-hit ball for seven innings was wasted on Tuesday night, and the team again looked anemic the next afternoon. I’m too lazy to look it up, but the Tigers had four consecutive 2-1 losses, which surely must be a team record or close to it.
Sunday night’s loss on ESPN was the result of another heinous offensive performance.
It’s terrific that the Tigers went 3-1 against the White Sox, but they didn’t exactly club the ball around Comerica Park. In fact, they resorted to playing some NL-style “small ball” at times over the weekend—sacrificing in the first inning, laying down squeeze bunts, etc.
Dishonorable mention goes to Brandon Inge, who’s been mostly awful since returning from the All-Star break. Maybe his torn up knee is bothering him more than he’d care to admit.
Hero of the Week
Justin Verlander, hands down.
JV was the horse that every championship club needs on Friday, in Game One of the day/night doubleheader.
The White Sox breezed into town on an emotional high, both from how well they’ve played lately and from the euphoria of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game on Thursday.
The Tigers, on the other hand, were licking their wounds—losers of five of six since the All-Star break, including all those 2-1 losses. Their divisional lead had evaporated.
JV threw a complete game, tossing a career-high 127 pitches, and wiggled out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the ninth inning that threatened not only his CG but also the victory itself.
He was still hitting about 100 MPH on the gun on his 120th pitch.
The Tigers needed that performance in the worst way.
It was what a clear-cut ace is supposed to do under such circumstances. Verlander’s gem set the tone for the series, as it turned out.
Honorable mention: CF Curtis Granderson, for his clutch, two-out double off closer Bobby Jenks to tie Saturday’s game in the ninth inning. The Tigers won it in the tenth.
Quick scouting reports: Rangers and Indians
Texas’ Michael Young is hitting .317. Ho-hum. What’s new?
Well, this might not be news, but the Rangers can flat out mash the ball.
They have six players with 13 home runs or more. But they don’t have a lot of guys hitting for average, including even rising star second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has 23 HR and 60 RBI, but is only hitting .244.
Maybe the most extreme example of this all-or-nothing offense is 1B Chris Davis, who’s having a Rob Deer-like season: 15 HR, but with a .202 BA and 114 strikeouts (!) in 258 AB.
The pitching staff is led by veteran starter Kevin Millwood, who’s having a fine season (9-7, 3.39 ERA) and 26-year-old Scott Feldman, who’s 9-3 with a 3.59 ERA. But in Game One tonight, the Tigers will see 23-year-old righty Tommy Hunter, who in five starts is 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA.
The closer’s role has been shared by lefty C.J. Wilson and righty Frank Francisco, who’ve converted 25-of-29 chances between them.
Then there’s the Cleveland Indians.
Who had the Indians on pace to lose about 100 games this year?
While I thought the Tigers would win around 90 games—and that looks good so far—I thought their stiffest competition would come from the Indians. I grossly under-estimated Cleveland’s pitching woes, and many of their hitters have under-performed.
CF Grady Sizemore, for example, is hitting an unsightly .230.
But the pitching has been the biggest culprit along Lake Erie.
Only one starter, lefty Cliff Lee, has an ERA anywhere near 4.00 (Lee’s at 3.14). The rest are in the fives, sixes, and even sevens.
Prized free agent signee Kerry Wood is a pedestrian 13-for-17 in save opportunities. The second number is the red flag: just 17 save chances so far for Wood in almost 100 games. Wood’s ERA is 5.08, and he’s surrendered a horrifying six homers in just 33 innings.
It’s been a rough year in Cleveland, where the Tigers swept three games earlier in the season.
Under the microscope
Rick Porcello, the 20-year-old rookie pitcher, is beginning to look like, well, a 20-year-old rookie pitcher.
Porcello struggled mightily in the first inning of Sunday night’s game, and he’s been more bad than good as of late. It’s time to re-evaluate whether he can be considered one-third of a rotation’s top three. The kid’s won nine games so far, which is pretty good, but he seems to be hitting that proverbial rookie wall.
Bottom line: Baseball is wonderfully unpredictable. Look at the high the White Sox were on when they came into town on Friday, and look at how the Tigers were kind of hanging their heads after the Seattle series.
You could have made a mint if you predicted the Tigers would take three of four, given the circumstances.
But that’s why they play the games, right?
As for this week, the Tigers are just 21-29 on the road, so this six-game trip takes on another dimension, in addition to being key to maintaining their lead in the division.
“We’re going to have a little talk about that,” manager Jim Leyland said, referring to the team’s struggles on the road. “We just haven’t performed as well. We’ve got to take care of that.”
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!
P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host “The Knee Jerks” on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!