My weekly take on the Tigers.
Week of Apr. 27-May 3: 3-3
This week: May 4-5: MIN; May 6-7: at CWS; May 8-10: at Cle
Goat of the Week
The Tigers’ bullpen had managed to keep themselves out of MMM’s doghouse, but after blowing up on Tuesday against the Yankees, spoiling Edwin Jackson’s start, we have to make them the goats, collectively.
Dishonorable mention goes to Carlos Guillen, who still can’t get his bat going. Of course, Guillen’s been battling a sore Achilles. He’s always battling something, it seems.
Hero of the Week
Turnabout is fair play. Last week, Justin Verlander was MMM’s Goat of the Week. Well, welcome to the penthouse after spending a week in the doghouse, JV!
Verlander had himself two fabulous starts last week: seven shutout innings against the Yankees on Monday, and seven uber strong innings against the Indians Sunday.
The totals for the week? 14 innings, 9 hits, 20 strikeouts, one earned run.
It was so important that Verlander follow up his Yankees start with another good one, or else we’d think that he was in the “blind nut finds a squirrel” category. But JV’s confidence is soaring; when he got himself into a bases loaded, no out situation Sunday in the seventh inning, Verlander all but prayed that manager Jim Leyland would leave him in.
Leyland did. And Verlander got three outs and stranded all three runners.
When a pitcher wants to stay in under those circumstances, that’s a sign of confidence and belief.
Is JV back to his 2006-07 form?
Ask the Yankees and Indians hitters.
Catcher Joe Mauer returned to the Twins last week and slammed a home run in his very first swing of the season. He went 7-for-10 out of the gate. As usual, the Twins stayed afloat during Mauer’s absence. Of course, that’s easier to do in a log-jammed division.
The Twins’ other usual suspect, Justin Morneau, is having a fine season: .327 BA, six homers, 21 RBI.
A tale of two starting pitchers: Kevin Slowey is 4-0, despite an ERA of 5.17. Francisco Liriano is 0-4, with an ERA of a tad over 6.00. Looks like someone’s getting offensive support, and someone isn’t.
The White Sox feature lefty starter Mark Buehrle, who’s slated to start against the Tigers this week. Buehrle is 4-0 with a 3.30 ERA.
Offensively, Carlos Quentin has eight homers, and veteran Paul Konerko is rebounding from a poor 2008. He’s batting .310 with 18 RBI.
The Indians, as we saw last weekend, have bullpen issues. Here’s a stat with a “wow factor”: the Indians have been outscored, 35-12, in the 8th inning this season. Closer Kerry Wood, who signed a fat contract with the Tribe, hasn’t been handed many 9th inning leads.
The Tribe still has all-world CF Grady Sizemore, but he has been getting precious little help offensively.
2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, who lost three games all season last year, is 1-4, thanks to his loss to Verlander on Sunday. The Tigers will see Lee again, probably Friday.
Under the microscope
It’s a close call, but I’m going to put Guillen under the scope this week. Carlos says his Achilles isn’t bad enough to go on the DL, but if he keeps not hitting, the Tigers may want to re-visit that assertion.
Also under the scope, believe it or not, is backup catcher Dane Sardinha. Why? With Matt Treanor likely out for the season after hip surgery, the Tigers will need a capable backup to spell Gerald Laird, whose fast start at the plate might wane if the Tigers overuse him. Leyland likes to keep players fresh, especially his catchers.
When the Tigers won the pennant in 2006, Vance Wilson was the supreme backup catcher. Occasional offense, very good defense, wonderful clubhouse presence.
But Wilson was a veteran, and Sardinha isn’t. Plus, Sardinha is a notoriously bad hitter. But the Tigers say they’re fine with him, despite the Mariners’ release of veteran Jamie Burke, a career .293 hitter.
“I need to hit, a little bit,” Sardinha told reporters Sunday. “Or else Dusty will be on my tail.”
That would be minor leaguer Dusty Ryan, considered the team’s best catching prospect, long-term.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!