Detroit Tigers: 52-43, 1st Place (1.5 ahead of Cleveland).
Do the Tigers need a little jump start?
They came back from the break cold as could be–the offensive highlights of the game were two warning track flies to center by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.
Perhaps they do need a spark; accordingly, Jim Leyland is sending a message and sending out a lineup that is…the same as last night.
You know I will go out on a limb and say that while there are certain topics that invite criticism, Leyland is not really doing a bad job of playing the hand that he has been dealt. And it IS the hand that he has been dealt–he does not have a magical ability to make better players materialize from the the bowels of Comerica Park.
It is not so hard to see the Tigers’ weaknesses. They have great starting pitching; the bullpen? Cross your fingers. They have a great offense–with arguably the best hitter in the game– but one that either bombs the other team into submission, or makes the likes of Ervin Santana look like an All-Star Game snub, with not much in-between. It is easy to see that the Tigers are not so good at the low-scoring, let’s-manufacture-a-run type of game, but harder to see what to do about that, managerially. Leyland does try: last night after Andy Dirks got a rare hit, he was sent with Avila batting, which got them a 3rd out. He only has so much to work with.
Not that there is no room for criticism. Pinch-hitting Don Kelly for Ramon Santiago? Really? Because there actually was a guy on the bench who could have tied the game with one swing. Unfortunately, he swings from the wrong side of the plate, so he could not have possibly done better than Ramon Santiago or Don Kelly, right?
Before the season started there was much discussion about how the Tigers needed a right-handed bat. What they really need, it seems, is a left-handed one. Andy Dirks and Alex Avila we won’t discuss. But also Prince Fielder is not really panning out in that respect. He may want to skip the hard work of taking BP against lefties and just focus on crushing righties. Also he could use a day or two off, which will never happen, and will become increasingly more annoying as his Tiger tenure continues. He currently has a meager .798 OPS against right-handers (.253 BA), which is just a tick better than Don Kelly (.763). This is not what Mr. Illitch paid for. Oh, and by the way, Tuiasosopo’s OPS against RHP is a mere 1.134.
This team is desperately missing Omar Infante. The worst thing about the lineup is their inexplicable inability to do anything after the 6th inning. The one exception is Infante, who has been the late-inning star, with across-the-board standout numbers: a .337 BA (Cabrera is 2nd with a lukewarm .260), and an OPS of .897 (Cabrera again 2nd at .808, Tuiasosopo 3rd at .788). Martinez may as well leave early and let Don Kelly take over, with late-inning numbers of .180/.489.
Not that there was nothing good about last night’s game. In the weekend before the All-Star break, Bruce Rondon seemed to have what may have been a breakout performance, retiring Texas in the 7th with 2 strikeouts and a groundout–all on 0-2 pitches (and added another out in the 8th). Last night Rondon came in in the 7th and got Billy Butler, and then followed up with a quick 1-2-3 8th inning. This is two in a row for Rondon, and his emergence, if that what it is, could end up being the biggest story of July for Detroit, who I suspect is trying really hard not to pay way too much (in trade or otherwise) for bullpen help.
The White Sox have been struggling mightily, and finally manager Robin Ventura decided he had had enough. Alex Rios was removed from the game after failing to run out a grounder (on which he may have been safe). I have always been a bit skeptical about the actual value of “sending a message” like this. On the other hand the White Sox are currently bombing the Braves 9-4, and Rios is 3-for-4 with a grand slam. Food for thought.
Stat of the Day: Anibal Sanchez is an even 7-7. In each of his 7 wins, the Tigers have scored 6 or more runs. In each of his losses, they have scored 3 runs or fewer.
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Justin Verlander, in case the lineup bats like yesterday.
Today’s Same as Yesterday Lineup: