What did we learn this weekend? If there was ever a weekend this season that the Tigers could have continued their swoon, it was this one. No Verlander on the mound and Brandon Inge back in the lineup seemed to be a perfect storm for the Indians. Instead, the Tigers played three different styles of baseball in sweeping their closest followers, increasing their lead to 4.5 games over Cleveland.
Speaking of Inge, he may end up being the catalyst for driving this team to the playoffs. He’s a steady force at the corner, and if his bat continues to stay warm in Detroit as it did against AAA pitching, Inge will no longer be the top complaint about the lineup. His home run early in Saturday’s game was as big of a welcome as the one Delmon Young recently provided against his old teammates. It speaks to Brandon’s character that he could make the best out of his stint in Toledo and come back with a revitalized focus. Just looking at the way the team responded after his home run, Inge can still command the clubhouse and lift up his first place teammates.
The trade: The Tigers-Twins rivalry may finally have swung hard back to the Tigers. Even though Minnesota was able to grab the latest series in Detroit, the Tigers picked up a relatively cheap Delmon Young, who is merely one year removed from a top 10 finish in the MVP voting. The fact that Young doesn’t play a half-bad corner outfield position is a relief for a team that would have likely been on a search for a corner outfielder otherwise. His absence has struck a never with Twins fans who are still reeling over the ongoing injuries with Justin Morneau and the continued struggles of Joe Mauer.
The lead chaser: If there’s anything we learned from the past week, it is that the White Sox (and not the Indians) are going to be the Tigers’ top threat moving forward. While I’m not hanging the Indians to dry, the loss of Travis Hafner and the continued struggles of Ubaldo Jimenez make this team extremely vulnerable and ripe for the taking. Even though they seemingly lead the league in left handed hitters, it doesn’t mean much when they average .240 a piece.
The biggest knock on the White Sox recently was their inability to score runs in bunches. In a defining weekend series against the Rangers, they were able to mix some good pitching efforts with massive outbursts of runs. While they are a solid five games out of first, they play enough games against the AL Central to turn this tight one around.
Coming Up: The Tigers have 36 left on the schedule with 19 of those on the road. The team does not have another scheduled day off until September 8. This week brings seven on the road – four at Tampa, then three in Minnesota. We’ve learned that playing in Tampa is no cakewalk, and this week will be no different. Jim Leyland’s Tigers teams have had an issue in the past regaining composure after a home sweep, let’s hope that this team is different and bucks the recent trend.