The Tigers just might have found the groove they need to take off and reclaim the division lead in the American League Central.
Sunday’s 4-1 win in the rubber match against the New York Yankees help solidify a third consecutive series win and their seventh victory in the last nine games. It was also their series victory at the ‘new’ Yankee Stadium since it opened in 2009.
Detroit could not have asked for a better way to start a tough ten-game, tri-city road trip with division foes Chicago and Kansas City coming up. Let’s dive into the numbers and see who stepped up.
PITCHING ROUNDING INTO FORM
Hard to imagine the Tigers’ pitching staff boasting a 2.25 team ERA in six games against two slugging AL East teams, and that is ballooned by a rather poor outing by Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday where he went just 4.2 innings and allowed seven ER. Subtract those numbers and you have an even more sparkling 1.39 team ERA.
The big story with the Tigers and now buzzing around all of baseball if not already continues to be that of rookie Michael Fulmer, who tossed his fourth straight scoreless outing of three hits or less on Sunday. In two starts last week, only four hits were on Fulmer’s watch over 12.0 innings logged.
Detroit also good two more good starts from Justin Verlander and Matt Boyd. Verlander was unable to go seven innings for a fifth straight start but did only allow one ER on five hits over 6.2 innings. Boyd meanwhile also surrendered only one ER, over 5.1 innings against Toronto, but did walk five.
Out in the bullpen, the Tigers staff has to be pleased with the early results from two starters-turned-closers in Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene. The combined to hurl 6.2 innings of work in five appearances, yielding one ER on five hits, striking out nine.
In fact, the bullpen has a whole had a very strong week. The eight-man crew combined to register a sub-1.00 ERA (18.2 IP, 2 ER). Talk about gaining confidence and momentum heading into a crucial seven-game stretch against AL Central teams.
A TASTE OF REALITY
A .278 batting average for a team over a span of six games may not seem like a whole lot to write home about, but it was a week-long snapshot of what the Tigers are capable of if they do it more on a consistent basis.
I don’t care how it happens, but somehow and some way, Ian Kinsler needs to be starting in the 2016 All-Star Game, at the worst he needs to be there. Ian has been flat out raking all season and has been among baseball’s best lead-off man.
Last week along, Kinsler led the club in runs (6) and RBI (10). His three walks drawn and two homers were also tied for a team lead and only J.D. Martinez recorded more hits and was on base more often than Kinsler in those six games played.
Kinsler should be in mid-season MVP talk if he isn’t already. But I guess his placing in voting for second baseman in the All-Star Game would unfortunately reflect that.
We briefly mention J.D., who had himself a very productive week at the dish. He pounded out ten hits and .435 batting average, despite not hitting one into the season and only driving in two runs.
The ‘Bash Bros.’ of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez went through a bit of a power outage last week. The No. 3 and 4 hitters for Detroit combined to go just 7-for-41 (.171 BA) with three RBI. The two extra-base-hits were doubles off the bat of Cabrera and the two combined to fan 14 times. Victor was responsible for a team-high eight last week, certainly a rare sight to see for Tigers fans.
Hopefully they can pick things back up when they see the White Sox and Royals on the docket.
LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK
The Tigers get right back to work on Monday on the south side of Chicago for their first road series against the White Sox.
Detroit just swept Chicago two weekends ago at Comerica where they beat arguably the team’s three best pitchers. However, the White Sox have made numerous roster moves in just that week span since then.
They acquired James Shields from the Padres officially the previous Saturday to help bolster their rotation and add a reliable veteran from the right side. They also designated pitcher Mat Latos and shortstop Jimmy Rollins for assignment, promoted top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson, and also signed former Twin Justin Morneau, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list while rehabbing from off-season elbow surgery.
The Tigers will oppose Shields on Monday and will also face Chris Sale for a second time this season, that will be on Wednesday.
The Tigers will also get another crack at the Royals when they start off a four-game set in Kansas City on Thursday. Detroit has not played K.C. since late April when they lost two out of three and mustered just nine total runs.
The Royals have won back-to-back games after dropping eight straight and surrendering their briefly-regained lead in the division. They are tied for 2nd with Detroit in the Central behind the Indians. To say this is an important series would be an understatement.
In that four-game weekend set, the Tigers will be missing Ian Kennedy, who has been the team’s best starter all season long with a 4.06 ERA. Detroit will see Danny Duffy take the bump in game one, who has posted a 2.90 ERA (10 ER in 31 IP) over his last six starts since being slotted into the rotation due to injuries.
Tigers pitchers in this series (Boyd, Zimmermann, Pelfrey) will need to find a way and slow down Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has without a doubt been their team MVP all season, leading the club in hits, runs, XBHs, HRs and RBI.