This Week: at NYM (6/22-24); at Atl (6/25-27)
So what happened?
The National League came to town and all was good again.
The Tigers should pull a Milwaukee Brewers and lobby for a move to the NL. The American League can have the Brewers back, as a matter of fact.
The Tigers’ dominance over the Senior Circuit continued last week. A weekend sweep of the Pirates was followed by a weekday sweep of the Nationals, which was followed by a 2-of-3 series win over the Diamondbacks.
The Tigers have won eight of nine, rolling through the National League visitors like a baker’s pin over today’s bread dough.
But now it’s a bunch of games with @ before the opponents’ names.
But here’s to last week, when the Tigers beat up on teams they should have—following underwhelming performances against the weaker sisters in their own AL Central.
Hero of the Week
When a team has a 6-1 week, it’s hard to pick one guy over everyone else, but how about some love for Brandon Inge? Not that he doesn’t get his fair share for a player who takes a .230-ish average home every winter.
But Inge has been on a quiet tear as of late. He’s hitting in the high .300s over his past 20 games or so. He had a big week last week, too: 7-for-20, including a clutch, laser triple Friday night against Arizona. His glove work, as usual, has been outstanding.
The season average is up to .261 now, which is rarified air for Mr. Inge.
Not the strongest of Heroes in a great week, but it’s nice to have the problem of wondering who to choose because the list of candidates is long—right?
Last week on “The Knee Jerks,” the podcast I co-host with Big Al Beaton, we discussed the merits of sending struggling sophomore starter Rick Porcello down to Toledo to work on things.
The consensus was that if the team feels he’d be better off clearing his head in Ohio, then this is actually a good time to do it.
Four of the five starters are pitching OK—and some are pitching better than OK.
The Tigers pulled the trigger Sunday, optioning the 21-year-old to the Mud Hens.
And it’s not certain that he’ll be back up in 10 days, like Max Scherzer was after his demotion.
“He could be but we’re not saying he will, by any means,” GM Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News. “It’ll be a matter of when we’re told he can be an effective big league pitcher again.”
It’s generally faster for pitchers to figure things out than it is for hitters, when the problems are mechanics. Witness Scott Sizemore, who was jettisoned when the big leagues proved to be too big for him. Sure, Sizemore’s batting average with the Mud Hens looked good after he’d been there for a few weeks (over .300), but that’s against AAA pitching.
No one seems to think that Sizemore’s ready for another appearance in The Show quite yet, despite his relative success in Toledo.
Porcello may or may not be able to correct what’s ailing him in a couple of starts. Now that he’s with the Mud Hens, there should be no hurry to return him to the Tigers. He’s younger than Scherzer and has less big league experience.
Plus, the Tigers are winning without his contribution, and there are still 94 games remaining.
So yes, Porcello is MMM’s Goat this week, but it’s tough love.
Upcoming: Mets, Braves
It’s one thing to kick the Pirates, Nationals, and D-Backs around in your own backyard. It’s quite another to take on the Mets and the Braves at their place.
I’m tickled at the Tigers’ 8-1 homestand, but the next nine games are where you’re going to find out a lot more about them. For after this week’s trips to New York and Atlanta, the Tigers go to Minnesota next Monday thru Wednesday.
If 8-1 is followed by 2-7 or 3-6, then hold off on the “Tigers are a contender” talk.
The Tigers are 13-19 on the road, and the Mets and Braves are outstanding at home.
Two forces are about to collide here, and at first blush it looks like advantage, NL teams—for a change.
The Mets don’t bash their way to victory; their team BA is .257 and only two players are in double digits in home runs. But four of their five starters have ERAs between 2.69 and 3.64, and their overall team ERA is fifth in the NL.
One to watch for is lefty Hisanori Takahashi, the 35-year-old rookie from Japan who moved from the bullpen into the starting rotation on May 21 and has an ERA of just over 3.00 in six starts. He’s due to face the Tigers this week, having last started on Friday—when he threw six shutout innings at the Yankees.
As for the Braves, the news last week was that 38-year-old Chipper Jones will NOT retire forthwith, as had been reported. Jones says he’ll put off such talk until after the season.
Manager Bobby Cox, however, IS retiring—after the season. So this will be the Tigers’ last chance to see Mr. Ejection, barring a matchup in some sort of series that’s played in October…what do they call it again?
Player to watch for the Braves: the rejuvenated Troy Glaus, who had all of 29 at-bats last year with the Cardinals.
First baseman Glaus, 33, has 14 HR and 55 RBI and is hitting .280.
The Tigers know all about Glaus, having seen him for all those years with the Blue Jays and Angels.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!