The Tigers Won’t Wilt
Roger Clemens got tattooed by the Tigers.
What’s the deal with these Tigers? They just refuse to go away. After beating up on the Astros, including laying a beatdown on Roger Clemens, they’ve now won six straight games. Detroit is now playing .684 ball. No, that is not a misprint. The Chisox are doing everything in their power to keep pace, but fittingly enough, the Tigers looking eerily similar to last year’s Chisox. I’m not saying Detroit is going to win the series, but…
I got a chance to see the Tigers in person a couple of weeks ago when they came to town and cooled off a hot Jays’ squad. Looking at the Tiger lineup, I was hardly struck with fear, and much has been written of the struggles of closer Todd Jones this year. Yet, somehow, the club ranks second in the league in homers and sixth in runs scored (despite playing half of its games in cavernous Comerica, still a pitcher’s park regardless of the smaller dimensions the last two years) . But what’s really driving the Tigers this season is a pitching staff that’s composite ERA is two-thirds of a run lower than any other American League team. Pitching wins games, baby.
Nate Robertson is showing a remarkable bend, but don’t break quality this year. Looking at his peripherals he simply shouldn’t be doing this well, but he is. Outpitching Roger Clemens is no small feat. Rookie Justin Verlander has 10 quality starts in 16 tries and he reached double digits in wins earlier today. He’s the first rookie to reach the mark before the break in four seasons. Impressive. Veteran Kenny Rogers continues to defy Father Time and looks like a good gamble by the Tigers. And Jeremy Bonderman is enjoying that breakout season we’ve all been waiting for, but it’s almost flown under the radar with the rest of the Detroit staff rolling as it is.
Despite his struggles, Jones is fourth in the AL in saves. But if he finally implodes completely, the Tigs are set. Joel Zumaya, with his 100 mph heat, looks untouchable at times. Rounding out Detroit’s late-relief corps, Fernando Rodney and Jamie Walker have been equally dominant.
Jim Leyland may have been out of a managing gig for seven years before taking the Tiger helm, but there’s been absolutely no rust. This season is possibly his greatest accomplishment yet.
The bottom line is, if you’re waiting for Detroit to fold like a cheap card table, you may be waiting for quite some time. A 16-2 run? Uh, yeah. It’s time to start believing that this team is for real, and come October, the loser of the Yankees-Red Sox race in the AL East may be seriously out of luck, as it’s looking more and more like the Wild Card is coming out of the Central division this year.