Tigers Outshine Rays in the Rain

I hope I’m not the only one getting the feeling that the team has turned the corner. They fought hard to a 3-3 record in Oakland and Los Angeles, looking much different than the team that looked out of sorts in comparison to the Red Sox and Rangers on previous road trips. Last night they got a solid performance by young Rick Porcello who fought out of one jam leylandroad-300x171after another, leading the Tigers to a 6-2 win over the defending A.L. champion Tampa Bay Rays. With a 4.5 game lead over the Twins (5 gms. over the White Sox) with 35 to play, the Tigers are squared away for a heated pennant race with a number of questionable pieces in tow.

If you’re like me, the A.L. standings began to matter in June when it was clear that the Tigers had a real chance at the postseason. Sure, teams have gone flat in the past after a hot start, but this team seemed to have enough pitching to lift the mediocre hitting into the playoffs. This team may not have been specifically designed to win 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 games, but that is how things have gone lately. Pitching has held up and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera has contributed his .340 nicely to a lineup in need of clutch hitting. Aubrey Huff and Marcus Thames have not been the answer in the DH role for these Tigers.

If this team were in the same position as the Indians, the make-up of the team would look a lot like one focusing on the future. Rick Porcello would be making considerably fewer starts as his innings continued to rack up and Magglio would have been seated to avoid the dreaded AB total with its $18 million price tag for 2010. Perhaps one or more of the young infield prospects would have had a chance to spell Polanco or Everett/Santiago and Curtis Granderson would be batting something other than leadoff. Brandon Inge would also be placed on the DL to have that necessary surgery his knees will undoubtedly take on in November.

This weekend series, and the one next weekend in Tampa, are huge for a team looking to prove to the 3rd best team in the A.L. East that they deserve more respect than being just a second-class team to the Yankees and Red Sox. The tension will only continue to build over the next few weeks as they head into the gauntlet of A.L. Central opponents – a tension that will only be relieved when we see the words: Detroit Tigers, 2009 A.L. Central Division Champions.