June 06, 2017
Tigers begin June surge while other
Detroit clubs prepare to make news, too
By KEITH GAVE
Sure, there are plenty of reasons for the Tigers to feel good about themselves these days – and for us to get excited about them for the first time since the opening week of the season.
With Ian Kinsler set to come off the disabled list for the second time this season, manager Brad Ausmus should have something close to a full and healthy lineup – a rare occurrence this injury-plagued season.
After struggling for the first month of the season, Miguel Cabrera is hitting the ball with authority again, his batting average rising like a phoenix from the ashes near the Mendoza Line. He’s leading a hitting lineup that has overcome woeful inconsistency all season until this recent four-game win streak, the Tigers’ longest of the season, during which they’ve scored 38 runs.
The starting pitching, while not a weakness, hasn’t been much of a strength either, outside of Bulldog Michael Fulmer. The recently sold start by Jordan Zimmerman was offset by concerns over Justin Verlander’s groin injury that forced him out of the game in the third inning Sunday. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but the jury is still out.
The bullpen, a house of horrors for the first 4-5 weeks of the season, has rounded into form since Ausmus replaced Francisco Rodriguez in the closer’s role. The Wilson boys, Justin and Alex, and Shane Greene have been stalwarts, so far. And Aussie Warren Saupold has been a pleasant surprise in middle relief, helping his team get to the back end of the bullpen to win games they had no chance of winning earlier in the season.
So yeah, there’s plenty to feel good about.
But let’s not get carried away just yet.
Consider that the five games Detroit has won in its last six have come against two American League bottom-feeders, Kansas City and Chicago, tied for 13th among the 15 AL clubs. And all that winning in those two series as served only to bring the Tigers back up to .500 for the season.
No question this team was severely tested with a spate of injuries to key players and no team traveled more – or harder – than the Tigers in the first two months of the season. They survived May, barely, as they’d hoped, keeping Central Division rival Cleveland in their sights.
But it means nothing if they can’t make some hay with a fairly inviting schedule in June against a bunch of middling opponents. If they cannot, well, then we will surely witness the deconstructing of a team that has given us a lot to cheer about over the last decade or so as the Ilitch family strives to trim one of the highest payrolls in baseball.
Bottom line: If the players give ownership even remotely close to their money’s worth, we should see this team contend for the playoffs until late September.