All season long, the Detroit Tigers have been inconsistent.
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The remarkable thing about this team is that Detroit never had a real trend to the season. No big streaks, no season-defining runs that made the season.
Except for, quite possibly, right now.
The Tigers have finally found the chemistry that so many writers predicted last winter: “How can the Tigers lose? They will score 10 runs a game and have three ace pitchers.” Detroit is, amazingly enough, finally reaching that peak with twelve games left in the season. In the last four games, the Tigers have scored 30 runs, with everyone in the lineup chipping in. The Tigers’ starting pitching has been dominant, with big games despite Max Scherzer’s one rough outing. Except for two bad innings against Oakland (with ten runs allowed), the Tigers have only given up six runs in the 34 other innings.
Today’s game sums it all up. Everything was clicking for the Tigers today, and all week long. For example:
- The Tigers batted around the order in the 3rd inning today, scoring five runs before recording an out. Detroit had four hits, including a three-run home run and a triple, all with Miguel Cabrera drawing a walk.
- Speaking of Cabrera, he hit another home run today, #42 on the year. Miguel now leads the AL in all three Triple Crown categories, and leads the majors in two of the three (HR’s and RBI’s).
- Doug Fister went for all nine innings today, for his first career complete game victory. With the doubleheader tomorrow, the entire Tigers’ bullpen has at least two full days of rest. Meanwhile, the Twins’ starter, Samuel Deduno lasted for only 2.1 innings in his last outing. Both of Minnesota’s long relievers came in today for multiple innings, making them likely out tomorrow.
- Eight Tigers had at least one hit today. Only Jhonny Peralta was held off base.
- Miguel Cabrera is a Detroit Tiger.
All of this has come since the brutal loss in Chicago on Monday, on the day where many wrote the Tigers off for good. That loss put the Tigers at three games back of Chicago, with sixteen to go. Now, four games later, the Tigers have gained 1.5/2.5 games on the White Sox, and can move into first place tomorrow. Suddenly, the Tigers are blowing by the White Sox.
This streak comes down to consistency and chemistry. Outside of the Tigers’ stars, everyone has contributed, and the final roster seems to be in place. Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks have won the corner outfielding jobs, Omar Infante is at second base (despite the recent errors), and the day-to-day lineup stays relatively the same. The only question mark has been the injured Alex Avila, but even he has returned to play well. As the Tigers can build with winning streaks and rallies, everything has started to gel to the point that Jim Leyland has stopped experimenting with the lineup. Finally, everything has been put into the right place.
Considering the schedule, there is no reason why this streak should end. The Tigers have two more home games against Minnesota, three home games against Kansas City, and then three games apiece against those two teams on the road. Meanwhile, the White Sox are struggling against Los Angeles and play Tampa Bay next weekend. If Detroit can pass Chicago this weekend, it will be the White Sox rapidly running out of games.
Looking towards tomorrow’s doubleheader, the Tigers are perfectly set up to take at least a share of the AL Central lead by Sunday night. The White Sox lost 4-2 to Los Angeles, and Tigers are a half-game behind Chicago.
Sunday’s first game has Max Scherzer going for the Tigers, and he’s coming back after shoulder fatigue Tuesday. Scherzer says he is at 100%, which might be enough to defeat the Twins. If not, the Tigers’ bullpen is completely rested (thanks to Fister and a rainout), and Rick Porcello is ready just in case. Porcello was skipped over on Friday, and can be available if Scherzer’s shoulder flares up again. For Minnesota, starting pitcher Scott Diamond has lost his last two starts, with a 7.36 ERA in his last five. Even with a slightly off starter, Detroit should still be able to score early and often in this game.
At night, the Tigers have Drew Smyly pitching, in his second start since the All-Star break. Smyly has only been used as as injury replacement, but is capable of beating Minnesota. Again though, the Tigers have a full complement of relief pitching, plus Rick Porcello, if anything goes wrong. (And Justin Verlander pitches Monday, which might mean greater leeway for using relievers with Verlander’s ace stuff coming up.) For Minnesota, P.J. Walters has not won since May 22nd. He has an 8.90 ERA since then. Once again, it could be another night of fireworks downtown.
It’s typically hard to sweep a doubleheader, but all of the pieces seem to be lining up for the Tigers. The first game is at 1:05pm tomorrow, and the second is at 7:05. In between them, the White Sox play Los Angeles at 3:35, and will be facing Jered Weaver. Considering how badly Chicago has played against Los Angeles, I doubt they can turn it around against Weaver.
While nothing is a guarantee in baseball, the Tigers just might gain four games over Chicago in six days. It’s quite likely that, by this time tomorrow night, the Tigers will be alone in first place. What a team, what a weekend.
Gordon Fall has been around the Detroit sports scene for his entire life and even entered the world with a Red Wings hockey stick in hand. With a variety of connections around the Detroit area, Fall will be presenting the unspoken, yet optimistic truth of our city’s sports scene.