The Detroit Tigers welcomed vintage Justin Verlander back to the clubhouse Tuesday as they padded their divisional lead over the Cleveland Indians with a 5-1 road victory. If their ace is really fixed this time, then a team already cruising toward the top of the American League has acquired a Cy Young pitcher just in time for a pennant run.
Ten straight wins have now propelled the Tigers to a five-game cushion therein. This stretch has come in spite of drama surrounding Jhonny Peralta and the recent Biogenesis suspensions, as well as a nagging hip flexor injury to superstar slugger Miguel Cabrera.
Their success has actually stretched all the way back to July 2nd. It was then that they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays on the road and began a winning streak of five games. That set off a formidable 23-7 run to date. Detroit is also 14-1 over their last 15 games.
For their last 30, the Tigers have been the best team in the AL in the standings. Close behind are the Tampa Bay Rays, who trail by a half-game with their 22-7 record; the Kansas City Royals and Indians fall third and fourth respectively.
As a team, Detroit has hit for a .279/.341/.453 line going back 30 games. Victor Martinez is 45-for-117 (.385) for that stretch. Torii Hunter has gone 41-for-115 (.365) with an extravagant eight home runs. Cabrera, despite fighting pain in his hip for a good portion of that time, has also gone 23-for-71 (.324) with seven home runs.
More impressively, the Tigers pitching staff as a whole has recorded a 2.90 ERA with a 1.144 WHIP. While they haven’t struck out men at the torrid pace they had before, they’ve walked only 2.6 batters per nine over their last 30 games, totaling 270 innings.
If they can continue this success, they’ll come into September with a comfortable AL Central lead and an opportunity to position themselves for another deep playoff run.