Last Week: 2-5
This Week: TB (6/4-6); CLE (6/7-9)
So, What Happened?
First, MMM would like to apologize for his absence last week. The Memorial Day holiday proved too much, so hence the lack of an update last week. As Jim Leyland said after Sunday's loss in Baltimore, per the Detroit News, "This one's on me."
Now, on to this week's update!
It wasn't the best of weeks.
The Tigers' inability to get a clutch hit cost them early in the week, and the inability to get a clutch out proved their demise as the week ended.
The result: some 2-5 nastiness, and what's worse, it could very easily have been 5-2, if not better.
The sometimes leaky bullpen and this team's maddening inconsistency on offense were on full display last week.
MMM looked longingly at the arms out of the bullpen the Pittsburgh Pirates trotted out for four games and became quite jealous—though it's debatable whether the Bucs' pen can keep up the pace for 162 games.
The Tigers come home for six games this week. They are 17-9 at home and 13-16 on the road.
Hero of the Week
MMM wants to give a shout out to Jhonny Peralta.
JP has probably had better weeks than the one just passed (10-for-27, 5 RBI, .370) but the Tigers shortstop continues to fly under the radar, so it's time for some love. He has settled nicely into the No. 6 slot in the batting order by virtue of his .332 average. He strikes out a lot, but that's more than made up for by his nifty OBA of .378 and his OPS of .865.
As for his glove, Peralta exudes quiet calm and a deadly accurate arm.
He started the week by going 4-for-4 against the Pirates last Monday and ended it with back-to-back two-hit games against Baltimore.
MMM is naming Peralta HotW not only for his performance last week, but as a way to give a nod to a player whose production has done a great job of extending innings and making the entire batting order look more intimidating, one through nine.
Honorable mentions: Tigers starting pitchers in general; Prince Fielder (HRs in consecutive games in Baltimore).
Goat of the Week
MMM appreciates Leyland wanting to take the blame for Sunday's loss, but MMM isn't taking the bait.
Instead, MMM is hurling his ire at 2B Omar Infante, who labored through a 4-for-26 week.
MMM feels bad, because Infante has been terrific this season. But this is a weekly "award," and using that as the measuring stick, Infante didn't get it done.
Infante is a great fastball hitter, but last week he missed on some and got discombobulated on breaking balls. The week started 0-for-11 for him, and got a little better, with a 4-for-15 finish.
MMM wonders if Infante's being moved from his standard No. 9 position in the batting order, in light of Austin Jackson's injury, is impacting his hitting approach. Just a thought. Infante has batted leadoff and No. 2 in A-Jax's absence. Regardless, the Tigers need Jackson back, badly.
Dishonorable mention: Jose Valverde, for his meltdown on Friday night in Baltimore.
Under the Microscope
MMM is loathe to do this, because it's like saying Red Wings goaltending is UtM during the playoffs (a hackneyed phrase), but it's hard not to place Jose Valverde under the scope.
Not only did Valvderde blow Friday night's game in grand fashion (two homers and four runs), his reliance on one pitch has people nervous, and rightly so.
Valverde debuted with the Tigers in 2013 when the weather was still cold and nasty. Hitters were sometimes having trouble in such conditions. Now, things are warming up and hitters are having better luck with Papa Grande's fastball.
If you think the Tigers' closer situation is settled for the rest of the year, MMM says you might be chewing too much tobacco.
Keep your good eye on Valverde. You won't be alone.
Upcoming: Rays, Indians
An interesting week awaits the Bengals.
First it's those pesky Tampa Bay Rays, who just keep finding ways to win enough games (31-25) to remain very relevant in a tight AL East, despite losing starter James Shields.
Part of that ability to win games is due to starters Matt Moore (8-0) and Alex Cobb (6-2).
Both have ERAs well under 3.00, and their combined 14 wins account for nearly half of the team's total.
The Tigers are scheduled to see both the lefty Moore and the right-hander Cobb this week.
Offensively, it always starts with 3B Evan Longoria, and this year is no exception. Longo is hitting .305 with 10 HR and 34 RBI. 1B James Loney, signed as a free agent during the offseason, paces Tampa with a .326 BA.
Longoria, Kelly Johnson and old friend Matt Joyce all have 10 HR for the Rays.
Tigers starters: Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer.
After the Rays, the Tigers' 2013 nemesis, the Cleveland Indians, arrive for a weekend set.
It looks like if any team is going to challenge the Tigers for AL Central supremacy this season, it will be Cleveland.
The Indians, despite a suspect starting rotation, are being allowed to hang around. The Tribe hasn't exactly been playing lights out baseball lately (4-9), and MMM still can't believe that 42-year-old Jason Giambi is Cleveland's DH.
But the Indians sport young talent like Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. And the Tribe's bullpen, especially in the eighth and ninth innings, is as good as it gets (although closer Chris Perez will miss the series, as he is on the DL).
And look who's hitting .296 for Cleveland—Ryan Raburn!
But MMM can't get past that Indians starting rotation.
Eight pitchers have already started games for Cleveland, including retreads like Scott Kazmir and Brett Myers. The anchor is Justin Masterson (8-3, 3.07), who the Tigers will see this weekend. But other than Masterson and Zach McAllister (4-5, 3.43), the Tribe's rotation is suspect at best.
Tigers starters: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Sanchez.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!