With as bad as things have seemed to be in Tiger-land, any sort of improvement is notable. Two wins in a row against a talented Cincinnati club is certainly worth mentioning these days. Especially considering in which the manner the Tigers won Sunday night’s nationally televised game, having to come back against a strong Reds bullpen and a deficit of 6-2. The Tigers had only won back to back games once since April 18th until last night, an almost statistically impossible stretch it would seem in the game of baseball. What that reflects however, is just how inconsistent the Tigers have been in all facets of the game.
I’m not saying that we as Tigers fans should begin to put the champagne back in the fridge, but there is some reason for optimism. First and foremost, the return of Austin Jackson to lineup is huge. Jackson’s presence this year is almost essential, as he was one of the most productive players in baseball in 2012 before his D.L. stint. Two, the return of Andy Dirks is imminent as well, and he has clearly been a more productive player than Delmon Young, and should help add some punch to the top of the lineup in the 2nd spot. Brennan Boesch might be beginning to show some offensive signs of life as well, and his pinch hit off of Aroldis Chapman last night was about as big as a hit the Tigers have had in quite some time.
There are other reasons that Tigers fans should begin to see the light. The bullpen is beginning to stabilize. In his last 17.2 innings, Benoit has held opponents to just 3 runs, striking out 23. After a rough April, closer Jose Valverde has been much better as of late. Since the beginning of May, Valverde has logged 15.2 innings, allowing 5 runs. Not great, but a decided improvement from his April. Two other pitchers of note have helped stabilize things. Brayan Villarreal and Luis Marte have provided the Tigers with two guys who have made the transition from the 6th inning to Jose Valverde much easier.
The rotation is still a little sketchy, but when the Tigers get Doug Fister back, that will certainly go a long way to helping stabilize that sector as well. As much as we all want a 2nd baseman, or a quality corner outfielder, the rotation might be the place to look for an upgrade come trade deadline time, and I don’t see any reason why the Tigers won’t be aggressive in improving their team one way or another.
Lastly, the next 6 games are against some real poor teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies. Neither team can pitch, and the Tigers offense should get healthy on their pitching staffs. They then follow that up with 3 games against St. Louis, who are hurting quite a bit themselves.
The Tigers have a chance right now to make a move, and I for one am holding out a little optimism that we are going to see a good stretch of baseball in the next couple of weeks. If not, it could be the difference between the Tigers being a buyer or a seller come trade deadline.
I’m betting on them being a buyer.