The 2003 Detroit Tigers, the team that quite possibly turned around the fortunes of the franchise, tangled with its anointed “natural rival” from the National League for the second straight week and the results were much the same as it was the week before, and the many weeks before that–many dispiriting losses.
June 16 to June 22 (Weekly record 1-5)(Season record 18-54)
Lucky for the Tigers they were in the middle of a homestand which stretched into a second week–or not. Home was not a sweet home for the Tigers in 2003. A sweep to the Cleveland Indians sent Detroit on the road, and decreased their home record to 6-29. Next stop on the 2003 vomit-inducing caravan was the Rocky Mountains.
One week prior, the Tigers had lost two of three games to the Rockies at Comerica Park, and now it was time to lose two of three at Coors Field. Back before the Pittsburgh Pirates were named the Tigers’ “natural rival,” MLB experimented with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Rockies, among others. Perhaps the league felt a Detroit-Colorado rivalry would harken back to the NHL rivalry of the same name, which hard been red hot circa 1996 through 2002. Sadly, the baseball rivalry never got anyone worked up.
Painful Game of the Week: June 21-Tigers at Rockies
Just when it looked like the Tigers would strike a blow against the “hated” Rockies and clinch a series victory in Game 2, reality set back in. The team was 2-12 over their previous 14 games heading into the Saturday night game, and both of those victories had come against Colorado. Detroit had a chance to win consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks, but could not hold a 3-0 lead in the fourth. The Rockies offense came to life, scoring nine runs from the fourth through seventh innings.
The Tigers’ murder’s roe of pitchers who surrendered runs in this game were the legendary Matt Roney, Steve Sparks, and Gary Knotts. A Warren Morris three-run shot in the ninth made the score respectable by 2003 Tiger standards, but it was still a loss, and would set in motion yet another long losing streak.
Final: Colorado 9, Detroit 6
(Lousy) Player of the Week: Steve Avery
It may be a bit unfair to label Steve Avery as “lousy.” He was a young pitcher on the early 1990’s Atlanta Braves’ staff that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and former Tigers’ farmhand John Smoltz. But it can be easily stated that by the time 2003 rolled around, Avery was, indeed, lousy.
A native of Taylor, Avery attended Kennedy High School and was the third overall pick in the 1988 draft by the Braves. He was part of the last-to-first Braves team of 1991 which began Atlanta’s long reign at the top of the N.L. East. The 21-year old compiled an 18-8 record with a 3.38 ERA that season, but his best year was 1993 when he went 18-6 with a 2.94 ERA. Late that season he began developing muscle problems in his throwing shoulder.
From 1994 on, he’d never post an ERA below four. Avery stayed with Atlanta through the 1996 season, with stints in Boston and Cincinnati from 1997 to 1999. No one expressed interested in the lefty’s services from 2000 to 2002, and he was out of baseball–until the hometown Tigers came calling.
Avery, like the rest of the team, was pretty awful that season. He appeared only in relief . When the Tigers dropped a 10-1 game to the White Sox on July 20 (and earned their 70th loss of the season–IN JULY), Avery allowed three runs and never pitched in the majors again.
He finished his career at 96-83 with a 4.19 ERA, but was sparkling in 18 postseason appearances with a 5-3 record and 2.90 ERA.