Plenty of reasons to be happy if you’re a fan of the Detroit Tigers. They have found a groove as of late, now having won four straight series and ten games in their last 12 tries.
Just when everyone thought they were unable to garner any sort of consistent good play, they flipped that script in a heartbeat and are suddenly just 2.0 GB of Cleveland in the division, and if the season ended today, they would be traveling to Toronto for the American League Wild Card game.
It’s time for a recap of how the team played last week.
CABRERA AND CO. STAY HOT
So if there’s anything we learned with Miguel Cabrera, when he catches fire, it’s basically like a runaway train with no end in sight.
Cabrera had another strong performance last week. His two homers were tied with Victor Martínez for the team lead, the eight runs driven in were most on the club and only Ian Kinsler (11) had more hits than Cabrera last week (10). Since the All-Star break, Miggy is hitting a cool .375 (30×80) and slugging over .700. The seven second-half bombs are T-4th in the AL, while the 21 steaks are T-2nd.
But it wasn’t just Cabrera doing ‘big boy’ stuff last week. The aforementioned Kinsler went 11-for-24 in the six games played, swiping a couple bags and crossing home plate four times. J.D. Martinez in five games went 8-for-16, half of his hits going for the extra-base variety.
And Tyler Collins continues to be productive on both sides of the ball when called upon, filling in for an injured Cameron Maybin last week, Collins in five games played went 5-for-16 and drew a team-high four walks. All of a sudden, the season slash line for Tyler is at .250/.320/.456 and while his playing time will diminish once Maybin is 100 percent, Collins is building his case to stick around for the stretch run.
Another tough week for Nick Castellanos added insult to injury when he was plunked on the hand in Saturday’s contest. Nick was just 4 for his last 26 ABs heading into that game, and it was determined he would miss roughly a month or so with a fractured hand. Just when you thought the Tigers would have a fully healthy lineup, they lose another big bat in the middle of the order.
A RESURGENT SANCHEZ
Tigers fans aren’t really sure what the long-term plan is for pitcher Aníbal Sánchez this season due to the injuries and shuffling of the rotation, but to say he had a very encouraging performance last week is an understatement.
Injuries to the likes of Mike Pelfrey and Jordan Zimmermann have kept the door open for Sánchez to keep starting games, despite the major inconsistency problems dating back to last season. However, last week was without question his best two-game stretch of the season. In his two starts, he yielded just two ER over 14.0 IP, striking out 12 in the process. Granted, 10 of those 12 came in Sunday’s game but nonetheless, Sánchez was a big reason in keeping the team in positions to win ball games.
The Tigers have an influx of starters, there’s no denying it. But if they can get Sánchez to pitch at or near the level he did last week on a more regular basis as a starter, it’s inconceivable to think the team would not keep him in the rotation. The picture of Tigers pitching looks good, but it’s still a bit murky in some spots.
Sánchez’s strong performance last week help contribute to a 3.14 team ERA. And that includes the rocky start made by Jordan Zimmermann in his first outing (1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER) off the disabled list (before being placed back on it). Two more quality starts from both Michael Fulmer and Justin Verlander, as they continue to gradually climb into AL Cy Young conversations.
And lastly, remember when Mark Lowe was pitching atrociously and the ERA was north of 10? After a July 8 game against Toronto, Lowe’s ERA was at 10.29. Since then, he’s allowed just three runs (one ER) over his last 8.2 innings of work. Sure, the ERA is still at a very high 8.10 but that is going down. If Lowe can continue to pitch like this, like he did in the month of April, that only adds another reliable bullet for manager Brad Ausmus come September… assuming the team is still in playoff contention, that is.
LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK
The Tigers have already packed their bags and headed out west where they will begin a six-game road trip against a pair of AL West foes. First stop – the Great Northwest against the Seattle Mariners.
Seattle put together a good showing last week, going 5-2 that was highlighted by a weekend sweep of the Angels. They’re 7.0 GB of division-leading Texas and 3.5 GB in the Wild Card race. They’re a bit behind, but they are close enough to where a good two-week stretch, like the Tigers just had can change the landscape entirely.
We should see a couple good pitching match-ups in this series. Monday will feature Michael Fulmer (9-2, 2.42 ERA) against Hisashi Iwakuma (12-7, 3.99), while Wednesday will have Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.52 ERA) vs. Félix Hernández (6-4, 3.55 ERA).
And as if the trip to Seattle was not challenging enough, the Tigers this upcoming weekend will head down to Arlington, Texas for a gargantuan three-game series against the Texas Rangers, the new-look Rangers if I might add.
Texas started off real slow in the second half losing four straight and eight of nine, but have since then turned it around going 10-5 in their last 15. They were once in danger of losing their stranglehold of the West division lead but have increased that cushion again to a modest 7.0 games, now over Seattle and 7.5 ahead of Houston.
Like the series with the M’s, Detroit will have some tough customers to face in the series with the Rangers. On Friday they will see Yu Darvish and while his workload this season has been limited due to injuries, he Darvish still posts a solid 2.78 ERA in eight starts. Then on Saturday, the Tigers will oppose Texas’ Cy Young contender, lefty Cole Hamels (12-3, 2.89 ERA). Hamels absolutely owned Detroit his last time out on May 6, allowing just one hit and two walks over 7.0 IP.
The new faces for the Rangers? Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and designated hitter Carlos Beltrán are hitting a combined 13-for-41 since joining their new club.