Detroit Tigers: 78-56, 1st Place (6.5 ahead of Cleveland).
The last time I did a post, the Tigers were 5.5 games ahead of Cleveland. After going 4-4 in the meantime, they have somehow increased their lead to 6.5 games.
The Tigers of course, as we know–and if you don’t know, well then, good for your blood pressure–came within 1 strike of suffering an historic 4-game sweep at home. The last time that happened: 2004, when the starting pitchers were the esteemed rotation of Maroth, Knotts, Robertson, and Johnson. Omar Infante was there (5-for-9 in the series), as was Torii Hunter, on the Twins (5-for-16). Yes, those were different times: total attendance for that 4-game series: < 90,000.
But the sweep was not to be: the Twins pitcher decided to grant ball four to both Jackson and Fielder (props to Loon for that one, although you missed the “Grant” angle…just saying), with 2 outs and 2 strikes Victor “Mr. August” Martinez lined a single to center, which brought Torii Hunter to the plate with the potential winning run. The potential became the actual, as Hunter, swinging for the fences, actually cleared the fence (how often does that happen?). Torii’s old teammate from the last Tiger home sweep (Balfour was on the Twins in 2004…maybe Torii still knew him well?) F-Bombed his way off the mound, and the Tigers somehow got out of that series with the A’s on an upbeat note. Phew.
The Tiger starters, somehow–all four of them–were ridiculously bad that series. It’s not that even the best pitchers don’t have bad outings; they do. And Max himself has been saved by a couple less than stellar outing by ridiculous run support. But bad outings by all four starters, on the best starting rotation in baseball, in the same series? How does that happen? Is that one of those (cringe) “that’s baseball” things?
Or is is something else? Leyland has been very good about pulling all of the starters this season as soon as is reasonable (well, less with Verlander); yet they have thrown a lot of pitches. Is it late-season fatigue? I heard murmurs that maybe the Tiger pitches were tipping pitches (Verlander has had this problem in the past). But all four of them? That doesn’t make sense. Were the A’s stealing signs? Doubtful (if all the big bombs came with a runner on 2nd, that theory would make more sense). It may have just been that the A’s–not a great offensive team, but a very disciplined one–were just well-prepared. They have that video stuff nowadays. They certainly seemed to know what pitches were coming. Or it could just be that the Tigers ran into a team with a whole lineup that was hot at the same time…it happens.
At any rate, going into this key Cleveland series, the Tigers are somehow on an upbeat note. Complete absolution, as Tom in Lakeland says.
Yes, of course Cabrera is in the lineup tonight. As if. Word on the street is that Tuiasosopo has been working out at 3B.
Cleveland has just picked up Jason Kubel (.220, .612….278, .786 career vs. Detroit), to replace Ryan Raburn (DL, achilles). But can he pitch?
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Victor Martinez
The first two months of the season, Victor was the biggest problem in the lineup, according to me. He was though, really. Leyland and crew obviously had faith he would come around. They could not have been more right. After a first half hitting .258 (.693 OPS), Victor has put up these numbers in BA and OPS:
- JUL: .390 / 1.010
- AUG: .383 / .917
Victor is easily the 2nd-best bat on the team right now, there is no competition.
- Jackson, CF
- Hunter, RF
- Cabrera, 3B
- Fielder, 1B
- Martinez, DH
- Kelly, LF
- Avila, C
- Infante, 2B
- Iglesias, SS