77-53, 1st place, 6 games ahead of Cleveland. 24 games above .500 is a new high water mark. Best team in baseball (Baseball Reference SRS). Best record in the AL.
It was early in the season, so early that the yet to be coined AlburCokey would have still meant a good thing, and the Tigers were off to a so-so start when they traveled to Oakland to take on the yellow-green-hot A’s. First game, Bartolo Colon was as frustratingly baffling as usual, and in my mind’s eye I can still see Brayan Villareal serving it up to Josh Donaldson for the game-loser in the 12th. (For us more easterly sorts, a West Coast extra innings loss is just about the worst.) Less easily recalled is that Drew Smyly blew the save. After that, the Tigers mauled a couple of young A’s starters (staff widely considered “best in baseball” at that time) to take the series, and order was momentarily restored. In retrospect, the Tigers were this close to a road sweep, though it should be noted that Oakland was without Cespedes and Crisp for parts of the series. Nonetheless, our early season Tigers had now more or less dominated the first couple strong teams (+ Blue Jays, though they were struggling early) they’d faced. But were only 7-5 to show for it.
This time around, Oakland is fighting to keep pace with the Rangers, while Detroit continues its efforts to stiff-arm the Indians. The stretch draws near, and these are two very likely playoff teams. Let’s call it a big series, even if they all loom large now. The Tigers may catch a break by not having to face Colon, who has been on the DL. Other news out of Oakland is that Josh Reddick might be headed to the DL and that Yoenis Cespedes has been in a slump. Their best hitter over the past month has been SS Jed Lowrie, while Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss have been swinging it over the past week. Notable: Crisp and Cespedes have combined for 1 SB over the past month. However, the A’s are yet another opposing team with a bit of speed sprinkled throughout the lineup, which will be the usual stressor if the games are close. Oakland has some rotation issues going on, leading to the ever-annoying TBA as currently-named starter from Tuesday-Thursday. I like to have my images set before a series, so I don’t think I’m going to wait on Bob Melvin to name his starters.
The 12-game winning streak seems like only yesterday. Gone but not forgotten, that bolt from the blue put the Tigers in the catbird seat they currently occupy. The Tigers are 9-8 since, but you may have noticed that the high level of play has continued. There was a lot to like about every game of the just-concluded sweep of the Mets. It all starts with another 3 quality starts back to back, Fister-Scherzer-Porcello. Too much to cover, really, but I will mention that the emergence of new secret weapon Victor Martinez the Catcher is an exciting development. For starters, it opens up some possibilities related to a certain MC (who) Hammer(s). Also, I could get used to having my prayers for an insurance run answered like they were in the 9th inning of the final game against the Mets. But there’s never enough, is there? I cursed Torii Hunter for ending the onslaught, and then became nervous again when Jeremy Bonderman walked the first batter in the bottom half. With an 8-run lead.
With Porcello’s Sunday win, for the first time since 1962 the Tigers have 5 starters with 10+ wins. Max Scherzer, now 19-1, faces uphill odds in trying to beat ElRoy Face’s long-standing winning percentage record of .947 (Face was 18-1… as a reliever!), but wouldn’t that be sweet? For starters (pun intended), that would mean more wins for the team… unless we’d be willing to take a bunch of no-decisions and eventual losses. Hmmm. Well, I’ve thought about it, and I think I’d prefer that Scherzer finished 25-1. That record would stand for a while, I think.
Now it’s the Tigers back home at Comerica, with Anibal Sanchez, who has, can, and should again own the A’s hitters, going up against A.J.Griffin, who has given up an MLB-leading 30 HR. I like what that points to, but you know how baseball can be.