Is the baseball season really a marathon? Or, can injuries, poor play, and bad luck end your season in just a couple of weeks? The Detroit Tigers will be able to answer that question rather quickly.
After a mediocre first two months of the season, the Detroit Tigers scratched and clawed their way to the division lead on June 28. As the Minnesota Twins spun their wheels in first place, objects in their mirror were closer than they appeared.
The Detroit Tigers were sparked by an 8-1 stretch during interleague play against Pittsburgh, Washington, and Arizona. The Twins were swept by the last-place Milwaukee Brewers and had given back what was a five-game cushion in the AL Central. With Justin Morneau going down with a concussion just before the All-Star break, the Minnesota Twins looked like they could be the odd team out in a division that was thought to be there for the taking.
An awful start by Tigers pitcher Andrew Oliver allowed Minnesota to avoid a sweep at home to the Tigers in their final game before the break, so instead of being five games behind the Tigers, the Twins were only three-and-a-half games behind the streaking Chicago White Sox. Not only did the Tigers let the Twins inch closer, but the White Sox, behind a 25-5 record in June, took over the division lead by a half-game.
Out of the break the Tigers couldn't have played any worse. They were swept by the last-place Cleveland Indians in a four-game set at Progressive Field. They followed that up by losing the first two to the Texas Rangers by a combined score of 16-6. The Tigers offense scored only 12 runs in the first six games out of the break, and the pitching staff allowed seven or more runs, four times.
Can the Detroit Tigers overcome this barrage of injuries to win the division?
Then the a freight train of injuries stormed through the Tigers clubhouse, pretty much ending any chance they had of contending this season. First, Joel Zumaya went down before the break with a fractured olecranon in his throwing arm. After the break, a series of injuries began on July 22 when Brandon Inge was hit by a pitch and broke his hand. He went to the DL and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Following that up, on July 24 Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle sliding into home plate and was immediately placed on the DL and will miss six to eight weeks as well.
With the Twins and Sox playing well over the past week or so, the Tigers have fallen five-and-a-half games behind the White Sox and four-and-a-half behind the Twins. The White Sox are reportedly favored to acquire perennial power hitter Adam Dunn.
The Twins are in search of pitching help and with the continued absence of Justin Morneau, they could be in search of a right-handed bat to balance out their left-handed dominant lineup.
The Tigers acquisition of Jhonny Peralta from the Indians can't hurt the team, but it's likely too little too late. Losing three top-tier athletes in less than a month looks to be too much to overcome for manager Jim Leyland. The Tigers might be better off selling off assets this season to build towards next year. By the time Ordonez and Inge put on their cleats again, the division should be all but sewn up.