Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tigers' Performance After Break Crucial

Casual pro basketball fans -- and haters of the pro game -- will tell you that the only part of an NBA game you truly have to watch is the last two minutes.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The most important part of any pro match -- and I believe statistics would back me up here -- is the first several minutes of any given third quarter. For whatever team takes control coming out of halftime is usually the team that's on top at the final buzzer. It's the truest barometer, among folks who know the pro game.

The Tigers embark on the second half of their season tonight -- well, the final 74 games anyway -- beginning with a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals, at Comerica Park. It's a terrific opportunity, coming out of the gate, to get off to a good second half start. They hold a two-game divisional lead, and are eight games in front of the Wild Card.

I submit to you that how the Tigers perform in the first 20 games after the All-Star break will go a long way toward determining their end-of-season fate.

Very little went wrong during the 59-29 first half, frankly. Yes, they lost Mike Maroth to injury, but how can you lament that when the replacement was Zach Miner? They didn't have Dmitri Young, but where was the dropoff? In fact, some on the team would have DY stay home the rest of the summer. Don't stir the pot, you know.

The Tigers frolicked in daffodils and clover for 88 games, sprinkled with some sort of pixie dust that occasionally energizes a dormant team. But those three little days called the All-Star break can do funny things to your clover field, and it can wash away your pixie dust.

Momentum is a grand word in sports. Also one of the most overused. The Tigers had it from April 3 to July 9, no question. Will July 10-12 stop it, or at least slow it down?

Everytime you look, the baseball gods seem to be on the Tigers' side. They've given us the Royals for four games coming out of the break, just in case the Tigers are rusty and need to ease into the second half. Yes, KC has played better of late, but they're still the Royals. They're still 31-56. And the Tigers have beaten them like a drum this season.

If the Tigers can manage even a 10-10 record after this break, putting them at 69-39, I think they'll be fine. Two-thirds of the season will have been played, and they'll have reminded teams that they're not about to fold.

Even baseball pennants aren't decided only during the last "two-minute stretch" of September.


Blogger Ian C. said...

Man, it wasn't looking good for the first four innings or so, last night. But once the Tigers roused from their All-Star break slumber, they looked like the team we've been watching all season.

9:22 AM  

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