66-45, 1st place, 5 games up on the Tribe.
Well, that was nice. Justin Verlander started out looking a bit uh-oh, but put together the strongest 8 innings we’ve seen from him since… when? Velocity, command, breaking ball working – what more can you ask? Justin Masterson actually pitched as well or better than Verlander most of the game. All it took was that 5th inning, and my favorite part was that both hit – and hurting – Tigers batters eventually scored. Gotta love Ramon Santiago busting it from 1st to 3rd after taking a pitch on the knee. Don Kelly had himself a game. First time I saw Jose Veras as a Tiger, and the breaking ball is as advertised. A few pretty good plays on foul pop-ups, and Miguel Cabrera even managed to snag one.
The Tigers starting pitching has been very good all season, and remarkably free of injuries, and now it’s on one of those epic rolls we’ve seen more than once over the past three seasons. I like the way the rotation was reset after the break, even if I don’t know if that really matters. You know, mixing up pitcher type game to game. With a starting five like the Tigers have, does it matter so much who follows who? I don’t know. Maybe. It’s not something immediate like batting order, which may be a bit overrated itself. Still… I like the way the rotation was reset after the break.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Pitching wins. Perhaps all the more so with a guy like Jose Iglesisas at SS. We’ll see. Certainly all the more so when part of the pitching is the bullpen. It’s all clicking now. Even in the games where the Tigers hitters are mostly baffled by the opposing starter, as they have been the last two games, they’re pulling it out, one way or the other. Big difference from earlier in the season, when Detroit always seemed to be running on three, even when winning. I hope that there’s either a lot of this magic left in the tank or that they save some of it for the postseason. You’d hate to see the Tigers become the 2013 version of the 2012 Yankees.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves with “postseason.” 51 games left. A lot can happen. The Cabrera situation remains troubling to me. It’s nice that he can still hit. But you still have to run after you put the ball in play. Miggy is hobbled and playing. Tell me how this is good. Tell me how this is not going to end badly at an inopportune time. Maybe I’ll believe you. Meanwhile, the Tigers have a few other guys who can hit home runs and doubles for a couple weeks. Who can move around at 3B, run the bases, get down to 1B in under 2V (two Victors, standard unit of measure in snail racing). Hear me now and believe me later.
When were the Tigers last 21 games over? September 10, 2011 (Brandon Inge walkoff HR against G. Perkins and the Twins), in the middle of reeling off 12 straight, and it only got better after that (12-5 finish).
How were the 1968 Tigers doing at this point? 70-41, 1st place AL, 6.5 up on the Orioles. 1972 Tigers? 59-52, 2nd place AL East, 1.5 back of Baltimore. 1984 Tigers? 73-38, 1st place AL East, and yet “only” 9 games ahead of a superb Toronto team. 1987 Tigers? 65-46, 2nd place AL East, 1.5 behind the Blue Jays. 2006 Tigers? 75-36 (BETTER THAN 1984!!), 1st place AL Central, 9 games ahead of the White Sox. You may notice something all these Game 111’s – including last night’s – have in common.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Doug Fister up next. The unknown rookie opposing him. Uh-oh. Time to break another habit.
When was the last time the Tigers had a starting rotation this good? Prior to last season with the addition of Sanchez, let’s say. That’s the question of the day. 2006 was kind of flukey, wasn’t it? I think you have to go back farther. Will 2013 prove flukey? How long does any starting 5, or 4, or even 3, stay strong together? Even in the olden days, it probably wasn’t that long. Enjoy it now. You’ve gotta believe that it’s capable of carrying the next two games, eh? And don’t stop there.