Monday Morning Manager: My Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at NYY (8/16-19); CLE (8/20-22)
So What Happened?
The Tigers began their new role as AL Central spoiler in grand style, taking two of three from the White Sox over the weekend, with both wins being of the come-from-behind variety.
There were also fireworks—and MMM doesn’t mean the kind spewed from the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard after White Sox home runs.
Tigers starter Armando “Nobody’s Perfect” Galarraga got into a tussle with catchers Alex Avila and Gerald Laird in the dugout Sunday after the first inning.
The incident was captured by Chisox TV while Fox Sports Detroit chose to ignore it, which MMM finds troubling.
“Maybe this is the spark we need,” Laird said afterward about the confrontation, which threatened to turn physical and ugly before peacemakers rushed in.
All parties brushed it off as a “misunderstanding”, or some such rot. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “I kind of liked it.”
The Tigers have won three of their last four after starting the week ominously with two losses to Tampa at Comerica Park.
Hero of the Week
MMM has two on its radar.
First, the runner up: Ryan Raburn.
As much as it pains MMM to type this, Raburn is…Raburn is….he’s…ho….ho…HOT.
Raburn is on a bit of a tear, slugging home runs and slapping hits and driving in runs.
He’s 8-for-17 with three homers and four RBI in his last four games. His BA is “up to” .238.
But for all that prowess, MMM is going with lefty reliever Phil Coke as its weekly hero.
Coke had to play the part of Jose Valverde in Chicago, recording the final out in both the Tigers’ wins.
Valverde is nursing a sore abdomen.
Coke entered Saturday’s game in the eighth inning, and was the pitcher of record as Avila slammed a stunning two-run homer in the ninth to grab the win.
On Sunday, Coke was set to close the game again, warming up with the Tigers protecting a 9-8 lead in the ninth. As it turned out, the Tigers scored four times, negating a save situation. But Coke pitched the ninth anyway, and after a slow start (a leadoff walk followed by a 3-1 count to the next hitter), he shut the Pale Hose down.
Maybe in some people’s eyes, what Coke did wasn’t as impressive as Raburn’s hot streak. But with your All-Star closer out unexpectedly, it’s nice to be able to turn to Coke, who’s been outstanding this season in his usual role as utility man in the bullpen.
Goat of the Week
First, Jim Leyland nearly landed here.
His decision to pull Johnny Damon for defensive purposes almost came back to haunt him Sunday. Damon delivered a clutch two-out, two-run triple in the eighth inning, nudging the Tigers ahead 8-7. Then he was lifted for Don Kelly.
In the top of the ninth, with the White Sox within 9-8 and the bases loaded, Damon sat helpless on the bench while the light-hitting Kelly batted in his place.
But Kelly stroked a two-run single, giving the Tigers some breathing room.
MMM could almost hear the Tigers fan base screaming at the TV when Kelly came to the plate. Why you’d take a guy with over 2,500 hits out of the game in a slugfest is beyond MMM.
But the goat is Brennan Boesch, who was 0-for-Chicago and who is simply hurting the team right now. MMM feels for the kid, but if Boesch was named Raburn or Kelly or Inge he’d be getting blown up by the fan base for his God awfulness.
Boesch is 13-for-107 after the All-Star break, which just might be one of the worst stretches of 100+ at-bats ever seen from a Tigers player since Ray Oyler circa 1968.
Yet he plays everyday because Leyland has no one else.
Upcoming: Yankees and Indians
MMM thinks the four days the Tigers will spend in the Big Apple this week will either be pleasantly surprising or a freaking nightmare—no in between.
The Yankees look strong in their bid to repeat as World Champs. They are holding off a good Tampa Rays team. They are as talented and as deep as ever. And they play very well at home.
This has four-game sweep written all over it; MMM gets that.
But baseball is a funny game, and it will be interesting to see if Sunday’s dugout skirmish has any effect on the Tigers’ countenance, and whether that translates to success on the diamond.
As for the Indians, what can you say?
The Tribe are who started the Tigers’ freefall, sweeping four games from the Bengals in Cleveland coming out of the break. But they’re still a bad team, made up of AAAA players. Kind of like the Tigers!
The Tigers usually beat the Indians at Detroit; it’s one of the few scenarios where the Tigers are successful within their own division.
BTW, the Tigers optioned 1B-OF-DH Jeff Frazier to Toledo and recalled lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth.
That’s all for MMM this week. See you next Monday!
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