Over .500—then right back to it.
This is the story of the 2008 Detroit Tigers. A team expected to be 20 games over .500 is now struggling to get over it.
The Tigers have their best shot to get back in the AL Central race right now. But they don't look like a team who has a "new start" mentality to the second half of the season.
Actually, through the first two games with the Baltimore Orioles, they look like the same team who struggled to live up to their hype the first half of the season.
Game One of the four-game series went to the Tigers. They were outhit, but thanks to some nice defensive work by Brandon Inge at third base and Miguel Cabrera at first, they squeaked one out, 6-5.
Did they look good doing it? Well, let's just say old concerns came back.
Kenny Rogers gave up a lead every inning until the Tigers got through the fifth. His soft pitches were left over the heart of the plate.
If Rogers can not locate consistently, he will get eaten alive by any team in this league, because his arm is all but gone.
If the Tigers want a chance, Rogers must get it together; otherwise, stick a fork in them. They won't have enough starting pitching to make any run for the division.
Rogers final numbers Thursday: 6IP, 4ER, 2BB, 1SO, 1HR. SEASON ERA: 4.62.
The bullpen, the one plus for the Tigers so far, was rock solid once again, until the worst closer in the game came in, Todd Jones.
Jones gave up one run in a 6-5 squeaker.
Jones has begun to be terrible once again. When he comes in to close, he HAS TO close out the game. The Tigers in no way can afford blown saves that turn into losses.
Time is against them.
Nothing like a 4.82 ERA out of your closer.
Game two brought more worries to the plate for Tigers fans.
Last night, a home run derby took place at Camden Yards, and the Tigers came out on the wrong end of it.
The Tigers gave up four home runs total, three of them surrendered by Rookie of the Year candidate on the decline, Armando Galarraga.
He went 6.2 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on three homers while striking out six.
Galarraga recently has struggled to get through five innings of work.
His numbers still look very good, but after a hot-start to his major league career, he is cooling off.
If he falters, the Tigers, with no one in the minors capable of taking his spot, are done for sure.
Another concern: the Tigers proved last night they are still inept at driving in runs with runners in scoring position.
Timely hitting has not been a Tigers benchmark this year, and if that doesn't improve, say goodbye to the season.
To top it all off, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox both won last night, driving the Tigers to 7.5 games back of the division leading Sox.
The Tigers have two more games with Baltimore, then a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals.
These are the games the Tigers must win.
If they are really a team that is turning it around and making a playoff run, they need to win the next two against Baltimore, and take at least two of three from KC (who has swept the Tigers in both series they have played this year).
After the Royals go away, big series lie ahead. The big guns of the AL Central are coming to determine if the Tigers will be back in the race by the trade deadline, or if they are a beaten team, ready to sell some pieces and look to next year.
July 25-27: the White Sox are in Detroit.
July 28-31: Detroit takes on the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland.
The Tigers are a sickening 14-24 versus AL Central opponents this year.
The rest of July will truly determine whether August even matters for the Tigers, because if they don't show up now, it will be too late.
The second chance will be gone.
And it will be sell-time at the deadline for the team who was picked to be in the World Series, not watching it at home.