Going into Friday’s 10-0 whitewash of the Atlanta Braves, the Tigers had split their first 20 games and were a game and a half behind the Kansas City Royals for the American League Central division lead.
With most of the early season chatter focused on the daily plight of the Tigers bullpen and who would close, Detroit has come out of the gate surprisingly flat in a year where experts had forecast them to win the Central with ease.
Nagging injuries to Andy Dirks and a slow start for Victor Martinez dampened the offense, however. Rick Porcello could not carry his fabulous spring north and has really struggled in his three starts.
Brayan Villarreal struggled so much in his seven appearances out of the pen, he was demoted.
The Mariners beat Justin Verlander the next afternoon and the Los Angeles Angels swept the Tigers over the weekend to put Detroit back to .500.
Besides Sanchez setting the franchise record for most strikeouts in a game with 17, each Tiger batter reached base. Detroit reached base 21 times Friday, including two doubles from the struggling Martinez.
Knocking down a red-hot team like the Braves is very important going forward. Yes, it is April, but the 10 runs scored were the most Atlanta has given up in a single game this year.
Detroit’s longest winning streak this year is four, immediately followed up by a four-game losing streak. The Royals and the Chicago White Sox are going nowhere in the standings. Any postseason run the Tigers want to get on will only come at beating them.
The Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros are on the schedule after the Braves leave town, theoretically giving the Tigers a brief respite in the schedule before a showdown in Washington against the Nationals before Mother’s Day.
Jose Valverde has been named the closer and the focus now has to change to winning, not surviving.
With all the headlines this year focused on what is wrong with the Tigers, Friday’s performance by Sanchez and the offense can change those stories to how red-hot the Tigers are.