Monday, June 05, 2006

MONDAY MORNING MANAGER: Week 9

2-5 Stretch Against "Big Boys" Cause For Concern?

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 2-5
This Week: (6/6-6/8: at CWS; 6/9-6/11: at Tor)

Last week I said -- in this very space, fancy that -- that if the Tigers were to go something like 2-5 in their stretch of seven games against the Yankees and Red Sox at Comerica Park, it doesn't mean that they're a bad team.

They went 2-5, indeed. And, no, they're not a bad team. I wouldn't lie to you, after all.

But they're not as good as the heavyweights -- not yet. Maybe it was the law of averages -- the Tigers had gone 15-2 before the Yanks and Bosox came to town -- but the Tigers still looked mostly like hopefuls instead of sure bets for the postseason against New York and Boston.

The pitching was dicey. The hitting was spotty. Hence the 2-5 mark -- and only that was managed thanks to a dramatic come-from-behind win in the last game of the Yankees series.

The Tigers looked a bit tight -- as if they were trying too hard to prove to folks that they are, indeed, for real. Sports Illustrated had adorned a button of them on their cover last week. Inside was a nice story about how baseball is "back" in Detroit.

Prior to the past seven games, the Tigers were 35-12 against the lesser lights, and 0-3 against the White Sox. Now, they are 2-8 in ten games with Chicago, New York, and Boston -- and all at home. I don't want to believe that those numbers are telling, but I'm afraid they might be -- to a certain extent.

For all their improvement in 2006, there's still one thing the Tigers don't yet possess that the New Yorks and Bostons and Chicagos of the league do: The experience of winning.

It's one thing to puff out your chest against the Royals or the Twins, but teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who no doubt were very aware of the confidence the Tigers were breeding amongst themselves, thrive on coming into a hostile environment and knocking the home team down a peg or two. The Yankees knew what might happen if they let the expected large crowds at CoPa get going, so they never did. Even in the second game, which the Tigers tied 6-6 with a rally, the Yankees bore down and blitzed the Tigers for five extra-inning runs for an 11-6 win.

By the time the Tigers lifted themselves off the ground by winning the last game of the series, the Yanks had taken three of four and fled town happy.

The Red Sox came to town and willed a discouraging, 3-2 ninth-inning loss on the Tigers Friday night, then ran away from them Sunday in the late innings, 8-3. The Bostons, too, won their series in Detroit.

I think we'll find out how much the Tigers have learned about winning big games when they visit the White Sox this week.

Our baseball team is still the student, so a 2-8 mark against the league's professors shouldn't be all that surprising.

1 Comments:

Blogger Ozz said...

I'm more concerned about how they'll do in the Chicago series than how they did in the NY or Boston series.

So far, they lost the first game. As I type, they're losing 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th of the second game.

If the White Sox sweep, they knock the Tigers out of first place, which obviously means that 'best record in baseball' thing is toast.

I'm not freaking out, but I think reality is about to introduce itself to the Tigers. They're about to find out that getting to the postseason is not the easy path that maybe they were thinking it was going to be based on how well they'd been doing.

For much of the season, a lot of things -- A LOT -- went right all at once. I can't imagine why anyone thought that was going to continue all season long.

Little by little, some things are starting to not go right. Bullpen issues. Injuries.

Luckily they have the right manager in Leyland who will make sure things don't crumble underneath them or spiral downward.

10:35 PM  

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