After Rugged Trip, Tigers Need to Heat Up to Win the AL Central


Somehow, miraculously, the Detroit Tigers ended their nine game road trip with a winning record.  In fact, the Tigers were a couple feet from tying today’s terrible effort against the Orioles.  Brennan Boesch’s potential game tying liner was run down  by Nolan Reimold to end a wild top of the ninth inning.

On the trip, the Tigers were thoroughly outplayed by the Cleveland Indians in their 2-1 series loss and were luckly to get a series win against the dreadful Baltimore Orioles.  Rick Porcello was awful in his last start at Cleveland and Doug Fister was bad in both his road starts, still leaving questions about a rotation that only boasts one starter with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Throw in injuries to key contributors Al Alburquerque, Brennan Boesch, Victor Martinez and Carlos Guillen and you would assumed that the Tigers were up to their typical second half collapse if you didn’t see the standings.

Let’s be honest though, the Tigers winning record on the trip was solely due to the fact that it included six games in Kansas City and Baltimore and that Austin Jackson basically stole two games himself with his glove.  He robbed Carlos Santana of a potential sixth inning, go ahead home run in the 4-3 win at Cleveland on Thursday and went over the wall to rob Adam Jones on Friday in the 8th inning to preserve a one run lead at Baltimore, a game the Tigers won 5-4.  The Tigers really need a laugher soon, cause they’re riding a razor-thin line over the last few weeks and winning a lot of close games.

Well here we are, after a shaky, up and down road trip that actually saw the Tigers only lose 1/2 game on the Cleveland Indians in the standings.  A trip in which they were outscored 36-43 yet still collected more wins than loses.  A trip in which there was exactly one quality start by a pitcher without the initials of JV.  It’s a second-half Tiger team that looks familiar and is no doubt slumping, but somehow still finding enough to pull off some close games and preserve their division lead.  They’re going to have to get hot, though, to hold off the surging Indians and on-again White Sox.

In the rotation anyone not leading the AL in early Cy Young votes needs to improve.  Rick Porcello and Doug Fister need to show marked improvement for the Tigers to have a shot.  Max Scherzer needs to avoid his one inning meltdowns, and Justin Verlander and Brad Penny need to be themselves.  Specifically, Verlander needs to be awesome and Penny needs to be mediocre.  Then need Brennan Boesch and Al Alburquerque back as they’ve been spark-plugs to the lineup and bullpen respectively.

The bullpen has been much better with the return to form of Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.  The lineup, though, has been the biggest concern.  The Tigers are getting runners on and consistently failing to drive them in.  It’s hard to point a finger at any one player, as all have seemed to have issues with this.  It seems everyone has taken career notes from Lloyd McClendon on perfecting the art of the inning ending double play.

In years past, after the way they’ve played the last ten days, the Tigers would have found themselves grasping for any available life preserver as their season sank into the abyss.  Somehow, they’ve played poorly and avoided a complete collapse thanks to a great catch, a solid start, a clutch hit or a shut down save.  Now is the time for the Tigers to heat up and take control of this division and end the Tigers’ fans fears of yet another disappointing end to a once promising season.