Last week: 5-2
This week: KC (8/29-9/1); CWS (9/2-4)
Magic Number to clinch division: 25
So, What Happened?
For the second consecutive week, the Tigers extended their lead in the AL Central from the week before.
Two Mondays ago, the margin was 2.5 games. Last Monday, it was 4.5. This morning it’s a full six games.
And there’s a new second-place sheriff in town—the Chicago White Sox, who are a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians.
The week also saw Justin Verlander tally his 20th victory in a performance that was below JV’s standards but still good enough to allow his teammates to score more than the other guys.
There was mini-controversy in the middle of the week when manager Jim Leyland “respectfully disagreed” with 3B Brandon Inge’s decision to throw to second base for an inning-ending force out in Tampa. The play backfired and the Rays got a walk-off win. Leyland thought Inge should have thrown to first base or touch third, as the bases were juiced.
Leyland also had to explain himself regarding comments he made about pitchers being ineligible for MVP consideration. For the record, Leyland supports Verlander for MVP but at the same time doesn’t feel pitchers should be considered. The Marlboro Man should go into politics.
Hero of the Week
Group hug! Group hug!
MMM is awarding the HotW to the Tigers pitching staff as a whole, thanks mostly to the job it did in Tampa during a four-game set in which the Bengals went 3-1.
The Rays, who went into the series on a five-game winning streak, scored just six runs in the four games.
Before the series, Leyland warned of the Rays’ fine starting rotation and expressed concern that it could be a “long week.”
But the Tigers starters went toe-to-toe with the Rays’, and the bullpen did its thing when called upon.
So special kudos to Verlander, Brad Penny, Max Scherzer and Ricky Porcello!
MMM was tempted to go with Phil Coke for his heroic and gutsy two-inning effort on Tuesday, but instead he gets honorable mention.
Goat of the Week
In a 5-2 week (all on the road), it’s tough to find a GotW.
But this space shall never be empty, so MMM is picking on Brandon Inge.
Pretty sure you know why.
Yes, this is because of the boneheaded play made in extras in Tampa on Wednesday.
MMM feels that Inge should have looked at second base and, seeing 2B Ramon Santiago was struggling to get to the bag, taken the almost sure out at first base, as batter Elliott Johnson is hardly a speedster.
As Leyland said, there’s no guarantee the Tigers would have won the game, even if Inge had gotten his team into the next frame. But it was nonetheless a bad decision that directly led to the winning run scoring.
Sorry, Brandon. Even a 5-2 week means someone screwed up, somewhere.
Under the Microscope
The Tigers announced that top pitching prospect Jacob Turner will start Thursday afternoon’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.
Welcome to UtM, Jacob!
Frankly, the entire team could be UtM, as the Tigers are starting a homestand against a bad Royals team and the second-place White Sox.
But when Turner is scheduled to pitch his second career start, it’s hard not to put the young man UtM.
All eyes will be on Turner as he looks to replicate his fine start of last month, when he went 5.1 innings against the Angels, surrendering just three hits and two earnies (the Tigers lost, however).
It will be interesting to see how brisk walk-up sales are for that game, an afternoon affair.
Upcoming: Royals, White Sox
If this was football, the media types would caution against the Tigers “looking past” the last-place Royals in anticipation of the arrival of the second-place White Sox.
MMM says fear not.
First, the series against the Royals is four games. You don’t “look past” a team for four games.
Second, the Tigers appear as mentally locked in now as they’ve been all season.
The team is playing as if it’s on a mission, which it is. The end is only 29 games away. The magic number to clinch the division is 25, which means it could be in the teens by the end of the week.
The Tigers aren’t going to come out flat against the Royals, not after a 5-2 road trip and playing before four straight crowds of 30,000+. Not gonna happen.
As for the White Sox, they too are playing good baseball, some of their best of the season. But they’re likely to be anywhere from 5-7 games out of first place when they come to town, almost mandating a sweep of the Tigers to climb back into the race.
Again, unlikely that the Chisox will be able to pull that off, especially with Verlander throwing on Friday, and on one extra day’s rest.
MMM can smell the division flag, can’t you?
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!