Last week: 6-0
This week: at CWS (9/12-14); at Oak (9/15-18)
Magic Number to clinch division: 7
So, What Happened?
The Tigers are eating through the AL Central like a buzzsaw.
The magic number is being chopped daily, to the point where it’s highly likely the division will be clinched this week.
The Tigers are on a nine-game winning streak, all against their Central colleagues. It’s a purposeful, determined run that has turned a tight race into a joke.
Weren’t we just looking warily at the second-place Cleveland Indians, who were a mere 1.5 games behind, and tied in the loss column?
We were, and the Indians are now a dot in the rearview mirror. The second place Chicago White Sox are about as small of a dot. A 10.5 and 11-game lead, respectively, over the White Sox and Indians seemed unfathomable a few weeks ago.
The most impressive part of the week was the way the Tigers totally dashed any hopes of an Indians return to the race, by sweeping the Tribe in Cleveland Monday thru Wednesday.
Hero of the Week
This may seem like a copout, but MMM is giving props to the entire offense this week.
Oh, the usual suspects like Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila et al could be chosen (again), but the primary reason the Tigers are on this 9-0 run is due to incessant two-out hitting, and that hitting has come from all different sources.
The Tigers seem to face no deficit that they can’t handle, as their offense, 1-thru-9, is raking the ball.
The list of heroes lately pretty much encompasses the entire positional playing roster.
Even the Ramon Santiagos and Brandon Inges of the world have gotten their day in the sun since the Tigers stepped on the gas pedal three weeks ago.
It’s almost unfair to single out one player in an undefeated week, so MMM isn’t!!
Honorable mentions: Inge, for his walk-off homer on Saturday; and starting pitcher Doug Fister, who’s settled the rotation down immensely.
Goat of the Week
Are you kidding?
You want MMM to pick on someone during a 9-0 run that has all but sealed the division?
OK, here goes: Brad Penny ought not to be in the Tigers’ playoff rotation.
Penny is clearly the rotation’s weak link right now, and he and first pitch strikes have not been on speaking terms in quite some time.
Though the Tigers have been able to pick Penny up (and he did recover from a four-run first inning on Friday), there’s no question in MMM’s mind that Penny should be the odd man out come October.
The Tigers won’t need a five-man rotation in the playoffs, and they certainly don’t need Penny’s stressful starts.
Under the Microscope
The adage goes that you can never have too much pitching—starting or in the bullpen.
The Tigers will need all hands on deck (or is it all arms on deck?) come playoff time, and one of the most important weapons could be reliever Al Alburquerque.
Alburquerque is still trying to regain his mojo after missing time with a concussion. His strikeout ratio is through the roof. How valuable is that, especially in the playoffs? How great is it to call upon a guy when you need a strikeout (or two)?
MMM will be keeping a close eye on Al-Al in the closing two weeks; he can be invaluable during the post-season.
Upcoming: White Sox, A’s
The White Sox will get their last three whacks at the Tigers this week in Chicago.
Even a ChiSox sweep won’t impact the race at this point, but if the Tigers remain in buzzsaw mode, the magic number could be down to one when they leave the Windy City.
Regardless, after the White Sox it’s on to Oakland, where the Tigers almost surely will clinch the division, as they play four games there.
Not much to say about these upcoming games, except that the Tigers just need to keep playing good baseball and continue to feel good about themselves.
Oh yeah—and clinch the division and have a champagne shower. That would be good, too.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!