Hey, don’t look now but the Detroit Tigers currently hold a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for one of the American League Wildcard spots, thanks in large part to the Kansas City Royals dropping a series to the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend.
But no matter, with one week to go before the All-Star break, the Tigers will have a big challenge to further validate their winning ways when they visit the Cleveland Indians and aforementioned Toronto this week. But we’ll get to that later.
What we will start with is how they got to this point even to begin with – winning six straight games against teams they should beat in the manner we by and large expect them to play regularly. Lot of things to be happy about in series sweep vs the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, and we’re gonna go through all the reasons why in our weekly recap.
BULLPEN CONTINUES TO EXCEL
Yeah, I see ya Frankie.
Closer Francisco Rodriguez should be excited because he and the rest of the Tigers bullpen was in lock-down mode for a second consecutive week, after earning the honors from MLB.com a week ago. The pitching staff as a whole produced a solid 3.86 team ERA in games vs. Miami and Tampa this past week, but it was Frankie and Co. getting the job done again.
On the surface, a 3.12 bullpen ERA doesn’t seem all that ‘lock-down’, solid at best. But they showed much more positive consistency than both the offense and starting rotation. Four of the Tigers’ relievers – Rodriguez (3 IP), Kyle Ryan (2.1 IP), Justin Wilson (1.2 IP), and Bruce Rondon (1.2 IP) – did not allow an earned run on their watch. Rondon’s effort on Sunday was the most impressive, entering the game down 1-0 and inheriting a bases-loaded situation with one out in the 7th. He gets a strikeout and pop out to keep the score 1-0 and undoubtedly change the momentum over to the Tigers.
In the rotation, there were more positives than negatives as well, but still leave some question marks moving forward into the break.
It’s good to have a veteran workhorse like Justin Verlander having to learn his new approach to pitching but he’s still producing at a rather high level. And while they will be watching his workload for the season, rookie Michael Fulmer continued to dominate coming off his week-long rest in between starts. Those two combined to post a 0.64 ERA, punching out 18 Rays and allowing just six hits.
It was also another encouraging start from lefty youngster Daniel Norris. Though he only went five innings and allow two earned runs, he struck out more than half the batters he faced, many of which came when the Marlins had runners in scoring position. It speaks highly of his stuff to wiggle out of jams like that, if ‘Van Man’ can command that consistently and own it, he too can be dominant.
Detroit does have to figure things out with Mike Pelfrey and Jordan Zimmermann. Pelfrey continues to be a start-to-start roller coaster, and Zimmermann, possibly still might be hampered by that previous groin injury, just has not been crisp in his last handful of starts. He still has a very respectable 3.95 ERA but the monthly ERA has climbed drastically (0.55 Apr, 4.88 May, 6.43 Jun).
KEEP BASHING, BOYS
Yep, I see ya too Cam. Keep doing your thing.
Outfielder Cameron Maybin and the rest of the Tigers lineup in their six victories outscored Miami and Tampa 45-20, hitting at a .282 clip. Maybin led the way for players who appeared in all six games for Detroit, going 9-for-20 with a pair of extra-base hits and seven runs driven in.
A small sample size, but even backup Jarrod Saltalamacchia was productive at the dish, going 4-for-8 with a homer, double, and four RBI.
Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez each clubbed two home runs last week, Kinsler now sitting on 200 career big flies. Martinez drove in ten runs last week, pacing the club in that department.
It was another productive week too for shortstop Jose Iglesias, who rather quietly has his batting average back up to .260 after hitting over .300 this past week. Remember his BA was at just .211 through the first two months of the season, but has since then caught fire in June and is continuing it so far into July.
LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK
Ugh, really? These guys again already?
Yes indeed, Nation. The Tigers will start a three-game series on the road in Cleveland tonight on the 4th of July. is unthinkably win-less in nine attempts against the Indians and they’ve been outscored by nearly 4.5 runs per game against the Tribe. Simply put, the Tigers have been straight man-handled by Cleveland all season.
We just saw the Indians just two weekends ago and accounted for victories No. 7-9 in their recently-snapped franchise-best 14-game winning streak. That came to a screeching halt in Toronto on Friday and Saturday, but the Indians hold a modest 5.5-game lead over Detroit in the division.
Cleveland’s bullpen got pretty taxed over the weekend, but they unfortunately haven’t really needed it against Detroit this season. The Tigers will see the same three starters they saw in their previous series against Cleveland: Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.22 ERA), Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.56 ERA) and Josh Tomlin (9-1, 3.21 ERA).
Oh yes, another fun team for the Tigers to play before the All-Star break. Although, Detroit did have some success against the Blue Jays earlier the season.
Though it is on the road in Toronto where the Tigers have not had much success in recent years. They have lost five consecutive games in the Rogers Centre and are a -25 in the run differential. And even with All-Star outfielder Jose Bautista on the disabled list, the Jays have plenty of thunder in the lineup.
Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson is picking up right where he left off in 2015, leading the team with a .298 BA and his 20 home runs are second to Edwin Encarnacion, who has an major league-high 76 RBI to go along with his 22 dingers. And outfielder Michael Saunders has been a bright spot for them all season and should be an All-Star. The career .239 hitting is registering a career-best .294 BA while see significant time as an everyday player, something he’s never had regularly in his eight-year career.
And even though his numbers suggest otherwise, Tigers will have to be careful with Troy Tulowitzki. Hitting just .232 on the season, the career .293 is riding a five-game hitting streak into Monday’s action and is hitting .321/.373/.698 since coming off the disabled list on June 18.