With three consecutive one-run losses en route to a sweep in KC, the Tigers have really put the pressure on themselves going into this weekend’s series against the White Sox in Detroit.
That was going to be a critical series anyway – with the Tigers as the only potential obstacle to the White Sox Central crown – but now?… After their impressive run while the Tigers were winning at home, Chicago limped to a 1-2 series against the Orioles. The Tigers couldn’t capitalize – and fell from 2 back of Chicago to 3 (and now 3 back of Baltimore for the Wild Card as well). This becomes something of a must-win series over the weekend: the Tigers do not play the Sox at home again after this weekend, the remaining four games on the schedule come in Chicago and will be much harder to win. If the Tigers go 1-2 this weekend they’ll drop to 4 back with 26 games on the schedule. If they get swept…? It doesn’t bear thinking about. A series win would go a long way to close the gap, of course, and a sweep would pull them neck-and-neck.
A sweep should have been able to do more. It should have been possible for the Tigers to take sole possession of 1st place with a sweep and pull even with a series win. These were winnable games and that was a beatable team. They just didn’t get it done.
Any close game will be a game of luck and inches. The Tigers lost Tuesday when Delmon Young’s fly went barely foul. They got shut out on Wednesday when they couldn’t score Miguel Cabrera after a double to the wall. Against Jeremy Guthrie last night the Tigers got plenty of hits but went 1-11 with runners in scoring position. That 1 came in the 8th and saved the team from another shutout loss. These games were full of bad clutch hitting and seeing eye grounders – as are a great many baseball games – and it’s hard to argue that a lot of that doesn’t boil down to luck. And there is the rub: if a team is playing well, bad luck leads to close wins instead of no-doubters. If a team is playing poorly, they need everything to go right to pull one out. We’re stuck somewhere in the middle… the Tigers don’t need great luck to win, but they can’t overcome bad luck either. That isn’t good enough to be anything more than an also-ran in the wild card race, I’m afraid. Lets hope the team (particularly a handful of hitters and relief pitchers) starts to play well enough to win games where a bomb or two hooks foul or hits the wall. I’d rather not have to hope that the team just gets a lot of breaks in September.