Forget Copperfield, Henning, and Houdini.
Don’t come at me with Penn and Teller or Blackstone or even Mandrake.
The Tigers are trying to outdo all those cats.
They’re trying to win the AL Central with one-third of their batting order tied behind their backs.
Who needs nine hitters? The Tigers are trying to prove that you can win a division with only six.
The Tigers’ lineup is two-thirds thunder, one-third summer breeze.
Somehow, GM Dave Dombrowski has managed to assemble a team that trots three straight pitchers to the plate, essentially.
The nos. 7-thru-9 hitters are interchangeably bad. Whether it’s Gerald Laird or Alex Avila, Ramon Santiago or Brandon Inge, you have anywhere from a 77 to 85 percent chance of seeing an out being made.
You’d make a mint at the casinos if you could walk in with those kind of odds in your favor.
The Tigers have struggled to a 30-29 record by doing their darndest to score all their runs before the number seven hitter steps into the batter’s box.
Brennan Boesch, the rookie sensation who’s been hitting lasers ever since joining the team in early May, is batting .338, slugging .626, and is getting on base at a .384 clip. Yet the only time he scores is if he hits a home run.
This is because Boesch typically bats sixth, which for the Tigers is like batting eighth in the National League.
Boesch has 23 extra base hits in just 139 at-bats, and yet has scored just 15 times.
He’s been stranded more than the casts of “Lost” and “Gilligan’s Island” combined.
Maybe that’s why Boesch sometimes says “Enough is enough” and slugs homers, like he did off White Sox lefty Matt Thornton on Tuesday night in a ridiculous at-bat of 10 pitches—after striking out in his first three trips to the plate.
The Tigers have two catchers hitting a combined .170 with a combined nine RBIs.
Miguel Cabrera can get nine RBIs by just showering.
They have a third baseman hitting .242, a shortstop with seven RBI in 126 AB, and a bench that is typically Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Avila or Laird, and Santiago or rookie SS Danny Worth.
So what is the opposite of Murderer’s Row?
Yet with this ragtag group of guys swinging cooked spaghetti for bats dragging them down, the Tigers are nonetheless going mano-a-mano with the Minnesota Twins for AL Central supremacy.
The Tigers are showing up to this gunfight with a switchblade. And it’s starting to show.
The Twins haven’t run away and hid yet, but they’re inching further ahead of the Tigers every week.
These divisional deficits can sneak up on you. One moment you’re only trailing by a couple games, and the next time you look up you’re seven back. Then ten.
The Tigers just finished a 4-5 stretch against the three teams below them in the standings. The way they’ve been scoring runs lately, it makes teeth pulling look easy. And less painful.
With the Tigers’ unbalanced offense, if you’re a baserunner and No. 6 hitter Boesch hasn’t driven you in, you’ll have better luck trying to steal your way home.
And who knows how long rookie leadoff hitter Austin Jackson can keep his average above .300? The kid is starting to show some signs of something I like to call “coming back down to Earth.”
Let’s face it: the Tigers are only on the north side of .500 because of their bullpen. And Cabrera.
They didn’t get there with an abundance of clutch hitting, or with dominant starting pitching. And they certainly didn’t get there by catching the ball.
The Tigers are more error-prone than an infected piece of software.
Former Tigers and Twins (and Blue Jays and Indians) pitcher Jack Morris, who now does some radio work for the Twins, thinks the AL Central race will be interesting, but Jack likes the Twins because he feels they’re more fundamentally sound and they “catch the ball better.”
Pretty astute for a hot-headed pitcher.
Morris is right, of course. The Twins are the better team. Probably a LOT better.
The Tigers will be scavenging for offense at the trade deadline. Again. Let’s hope it works out better than last summer. I wouldn’t wish Aubrey Huff on my worst enemy.
The Tigers are trying to win the division—or at least make things close—with 2/3 of a batting order.
Those 7-thru-9 guys are pretty talented; watch closely—at no time will the baseball leave the infield.