My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”
Week of 9/7-13: 1-5
This week: 9/14: TOR; 9/15-17: KC; 9/18-20: at Min
Goat of the Week
The bullpen sprang its first major leak of the season.
The Tigers are still 64-0 when leading after eight innings, but on Saturday, Fernando Rodney surrendered a tie-breaking two-run home run to Aaron Hill as the Tigers lost their season-high fifth straight game. The Blue Jays rallied from a 6-3 deficit to win, 8-6. The game also featured a game-tying wild pitch by the usually reliable Brandon Lyon.
The losing streak, coming on the heels of a six-game winning version, was largely due to the bullpen getting all sieve-like. Everything that went right during the winning streak went wrong in the five losses to the wretched Royals and almost-as-bad Blue Jays.
Guess that’s why they’re called streaks, eh?
The bullpen, as a group, is last week’s Goat.
Dishonorable mention: Curtis Granderson, who continues to sully the leadoff position with atrocious at-bats, especially against lefties.
Hero of the Week
The Tigers found themselves on Sunday in that position of needing a win in the worst way—a place they haven’t been in a while.
So they got a big start from rookie Rick Porcello, who helped his team get back on the winning track.
It’s hard to say that a game is a "must-win" when you have a five-game lead in the division in mid-September, but the Tigers really needed to win Sunday. Losing five straight to the likes of Kansas City and Toronto was not on the menu.
Porcello put an end—at least temporarily—to the nonsense by vexing the Jays, limiting them to two runs and four hits in six innings.
This time, the bullpen didn’t goat everything up, and the Tigers had themselves a much-needed win.
Honorable mention: Rookie catcher Alex Avila, who continues to impress with his short, compact, powerful swing, and who has done more to inject the Tigers’ offense with some punch than anyone ever expected when he was called up from the minors rather unexpectedly. Five homers in 48 AB for young Avila—not bad at all.
Quick scouting reports: Royals and Twins
Break up the Royals!
They handled the Tigers, three straight, last week in Kansas City. Some payback would be nice, and would start to assure the Tigers—and their fans—of the division title.
The Royals have some youngsters trying to show off for 2010 and beyond, they have Billy Butler (.303), and they still have Zack Greinke—he of the 2.19 ERA and Cy Young contention. Greinke is scheduled to pitch against the Tigers this week.
Ahh, the Twins—those untrustworthy fellows. Their ineptitude has prevented them from gaining any real ground on the Tigers, particularly during Detroit’s losing streak. They’re just not good enough to sustain a serious run.
Or are they?
Don’t count them out until the mathematicians say it’s safe. It’s getting close to that point, but we’re not there yet.
You’re familiar with the names: Morneau, Mauer, Cuddyer, Span.
The Twins have them, but they’re not putting together good stretches of baseball right now.
The Tigers play Minnesota six more times this season. The Twins pretty much have to win all six to have a shot.
But the math isn’t official yet, so don’t count them out.
Don’t EVER count the Twins out.
Under the microscope
MMM put Nate Robertson under the scope last week and the guy re-injured himself.
So, at the risk of jinxing anyone else, MMM is putting Magglio Ordonez under the microscope.
Maggs has the makings of an "X" factor down the stretch. He would seem to have a lot to prove. His batting average has been inching toward .300. He’s experienced. He’s been mostly invisible all year—certainly less visible than his contract situation, which has been discussed ad nauseam.
It might just be a gut feeling that MMM has, but watch Ordonez closely down the stretch.
Just a hunch.
Bottom line: Monday night on "The Knee Jerks", MMM said that the Central race was over and done with. That declaration was made because the Tigers were on a six-game roll and the lead was seven full games.
Then, the Tigers promptly went out and lost five in a row to two teams going nowhere.
The race is still over, MMM thinks.
This week’s bottom line? The Tigers need only break even down the stretch. They don’t need to play out of their minds.
You’ll hear that nonsense a lot from now on, but it seems to me when you start doing that, start lowering expectations, then you get into a "try not to lose" mode, instead of a "lower the hammer on them" mentality.
The Tigers have a six-game advantage in the loss column, which should be next to impossible for the wacky Twins and Chicago White Sox to overcome.
The Tigers ought to just put this thing to bed and make a statement going into the playoffs.
Tigers’ magic number to clinch the division: 15
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!
P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host “The Knee Jerks” on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!