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Tigers weekly recap, look ahead to next week

After winning 8 of 10, the Tigers have cooled off just a bit, now coming off a series defeat against the Oakland Athletics by the Bay.

More importantly, because of a recent slump by the Chicago White Sox, who have since lost their division lead to the Kansas City Royals, has Detroit now just 3.0 games out of the top spot at 24-25 in the American League Central division and still in 4th place.

They were able to get to the solid pitching of the upstart and surprising Philadelphia Phillies, scoring 13 runs in their three games. After winning the series opener vs the A’s on Friday, the bullpen and some mental field blunders costed the team the final two games in the series.

No matter, the Tigers are playing much better than they were a few weeks ago and prior, and are one good run away from possibly having a playoff spot as the calendar already turns to June. Who were the biggest performers last week?

MARTINEZ AND MAYBIN STAY HOT

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr
Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr

One of the more consistently-hot bats all season long for the Tigers was getting it done once again last week.

Designated hitter Victor Martinez was a cool 11-for-22 in the team’s six games last week, blasting his 7th home run of the season on Saturday and driving in six runs to bring his RBI total to 30.

It’s certainly refreshing to see a healthy Victor return to form and providing a quality at-bat nearly every time in the clean-up spot.

Another guy who continued his sweet stroke at the dish is outfielder Cameron Maybin, who continues to be the spark plug for the Tigers’ recent surge. Last week alone, Maybin went 8-for-23 (.348 BA) with a double and a pair of RBI. He had a 10-game hitting streak to start the season snapped on Saturday but went 1-for-3 in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to start a new hitting streak.

The team so far is 8-4 since Maybin returned from the disabled list.

Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos combined to go just 10-for-43 with 10 strikeouts last week but both clubbed two homers each and combined to drive in seven runs, with Cabrera being responsible for five of those.

ROTATION SHOWING POSITIVE SIGNS

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr
Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr

The pitching staff as a whole for the Tigers last week registered a pedestrian 4.13 team ERA but the rotation alone has some bright spots with some and more encouraging spots with others.

Both Michael Fulmer and Justin Verlander hurled shutouts in their last outings respectively. The two combined to pitch 15.2 scoreless innings, allowing just six hits and striking out 13 batters (Verlander had 10 of those).

For a staff that was minus ace Jordan Zimmermann last week, the Verlander and Fulmer gave the team a huge boost of confidence moving forward. JV now has a 2.80 ERA for the month of May (five starts), while Fulmer has now put together back-to-back very good outings, shaving nearly three runs off his ERA (currently at 3.94).

Photo Credit: Tom Haggerty/Flickr
Photo Credit: Tom Haggerty/Flickr

Also receiving a vote of confidence from the organization last week was Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey made two starts last week and allowed four ER over 11.2 innings of work.

While he still remains winless on the season (and in his last 18 starts overall), Pelfrey is gradually improving. He’s posted a 3.22 ERA over his last four starts now and finally has his season mark under 5.00 and hopefully trending down.

In a spot start, the Tigers also got five hard-fought innings out of Matt Boyd, who was pitching in place of the injured Zimmermann.

The one-solid bullpen, however, has come back down to earth in a big way. Last week alone, Tigers’ relievers combined registered an ERA a shade over 13.00. Alex Wilson and the rookie Warwick Saupold were responsible for 10 ER each over the weekend in Oakland.

Manager Brad Ausmus brought Saupold in a tie-game situation on Saturday and the Athletics peppered the rookie for five runs on five hits. It was really the first time in his handful of big league outings he had been knocked around, so the manager Ausmus was testing how well he’d handle the adversity first time.

Wilson meanwhile is the one the Tigers should be more concerned about. After going unblemished in April, Wilson has posted a May ERA of 9.53 and in his last four appearances, has yielded six ER in just 4.1 innings pitched. It may be time for Wilson to go get a tune-up down at Toledo, fixing any issue he’s having mechanically and regain his confidence.

LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK

Los Angeles Angels

The Tigers next seven games will be a challenging one, all in many different forms. They will start the week with concluding their west coast trip in southern California for a three-game series with the Angels.

Angel Stadium in Anaheim has been a House of Horrors for the Tigers over the years. Since the 2000 season, they are 19-50 on the road against the Halos. They have lost their last seven on the road in Anaheim and 17 of their last 19.

Nothing more really needs to be said, but we do have to remind folks that the Angels still have some guy named Mike Trout, undoubtedly one of the best young players in the game today. The 2014 AL MVP, after struggling to start the season, is now hitting .317/.414/.565 with 11 homers and 37 RBI.

New York Yankees

After a 4 p.m. local time start on Wednesday to finish their series with the Angels, the Tigers will have to turn around right away and fly home to play a make-up game against the Yankees, a game that rained out way back in the first week of the season on April 10.

The Bronx Bombers aren’t exactly bombing it lately. They rank in the bottom-5 of every major hitting category on the season, which includes a .234 team batting average and 190 runs scored that is second-fewest in the AL.

Their pitching numbers as a staff are middle of the pack, but the back end of the bullpen is largely responsible for that. The three-headed monster of Andrew MillerDellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman have a combined 1.53 ERA this season (9 ER in 53.1 IP).

Chicago White Sox

After the rainout make-up, the Tigers will get their first look at the division rival White Sox as a part of the teams honor the Negro League all weekend long.

Once upon a time, the White Sox held a nice and comfortable lead in the Central division but have since then lost 15 of their last 19 games, including a current seven-game losing skid and their division lead quickly evaporated.

Having said all of that, Chicago is still a much-improved team from a year ago with a lot of new faces. They are led by a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation in Chris Sale (2.29 ERA in 11 starts) and Jose Quintana (2.13 ERA in 11 starts). The Tigers will see both southpaws in that weekend series at Comerica Park.

As for those new faces the Pale Hose have, the most productive has been third baseman Todd Frazier who leads the team with 15 home runs and 35 RBI on the season, despite a .220 batting average.

Detroit will also see some old friends. Three former Tigers are now wearing rival uni’s – Alex AvilaAustin Jackson, and Avisail Garcia. Avila and Jackson are new this season.

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