Remain Cautiously Optimistic

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After watching Brandon Inge crush a 2-1 pitch off of Minnesota Twins reliever Glen Perkins, a few things ran through my mind.

First off, sitting in my living room in disbelief with my arms in the air watching that ball head into the left field seats, we now see what has now become an 8-game winning streak for the Detroit Tigers.  A streak that has featured a lot of the offensive skill that we’ve long known from this 2011 team, bailing out a couple of shaky starts from Brad Penny with a little luck, and maybe, just maybe a bit of the unexpected.  Inge gave us that today.

With this win, the Tigers sit 21 games over .500 with their 83-62 record, their magic number to clinch the division down to 9.  Doug Fister will take the mound in the finale vs the Twins and attempt to finish off what would be the third straight sweep, and give this team a 9-game win streak, and what some might think is a total stronghold on the division we all knew the Tigers were probably going to win this season.

This is where recent history settles in: not necessarily with the Tigers, but with the 2010 Minnesota Twins.

If you’ll recall, the Twins had what I’ll call a “cupcake” schedule down the stretch, facing the likes of the Royals, Indians, White Sox, Tigers, and Athletics – all teams who were not factors going into the postseason.  This season, the Tigers are on a similar stretch, facing teams that have been long out of contention: they’ll face the White Sox (who aren’t LONG out of contention), Athletics, Royals, Orioles and Indians to finish the season.  Last year’s Twins team limped down the stretch, losing 8 of their last 10 games (including a sweep against the Tigers), plus a 3 out of 4 game dry heave vs the Blue Jays.  Afterwards, in typical Minnesota Twins fashion, they would go down in 3 quick games in the ALDS vs the New York Yankees.

Now, that’s not to say that will happen to the Tigers, as we’re talking about 2 different teams, in 2 very different seasons.  But should the Tigers limp in down the stretch, who’s to say they wouldn’t offer up a letdown?  Especially after the run they’re putting up now, it’s going to be very easy to deflate the fans if the Tigers run off say, 2 or 3 losses in a row.  After the Sunday finale with the Twins, the Tigers will embark on a long 10 day, 9 game road trip before finishing the season with 7 at home.  With a couple of questionable starts from Brad Penny, Rick Porcello, and even Justin Verlander, it’s hard to imagine that the Tigers offense can sustain this much momentum night after night, especially the way Jim Leyland likes to shuffle the lineups around.

It all looks very good now, and while the Tigers are so close to clinching their first AL Central title, it’ll help to stay grounded a bit.  It would be a lot easier to dismiss all these notions if the Tigers were running off some of these wins against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rangers.  But for now, while it appears as if the Tigers can do no wrong right now, it can easily turn the other way around.

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