Monday, April 09, 2007


(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-2
This Week: (4/9-4/11: at Bal; 4/12-4/15: at Tor)

Three wins, three one-run wins. Not a bad recipe for success -- winning close ballgames, and the Tigers have done it in three different ways. But all have involved power.

Game 2: an 8-run explosion early -- featuring Curtis Granderson's first career grand slam -- made it appear as if the game with the Blue Jays would be a walk in the ballpark. But then a 10-2 lead was chopped to 10-9 when the Jays scored seven times in the eighth inning.

Game 4: a workman-like, grind-it-out win over the Royals. A 4-1 lead erased by a three-run fourth by KC, but then Pudge Rodriguez and Granderson went yard to provide enough offense to complete the 6-5 win.

Game 5: a dramatic, three-run homerun by Rodriguez in the ninth turns an 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 lead, which Todd Jones protects for his third save of the season.

It's encouraging to see the Tigers come out of the gate with three one-run wins -- even though the 10-9 game shouldn't have gotten that close. It is the recipe for division winners and postseason celebrators.

Jones has three saves right away, and this wasn't happening early last season, because Jones missed the first several weeks of the season due to injury. Nice to see confidence boosting happening in the first week.

Pudge is off to another hot start; April has been his month every year he's been a Tiger.

But there are some minor concerns; there always are in any given week of a 162-game season.

Brandon Inge: the happy-go-lucky, self-made third baseman is 0-for-17 in 2007, but he says he isn't worried. Manager Jim Leyland isn't losing any sleep, either.

"The other team has 20 infielders and outfielders out there," Inge says, and I too am not overly worried. He likes his swings; the balls just aren't finding the holes. That's a good attitude to have. But still, let's get that first knock out of the way sooner rather than later, OK?

The bullpen has been shaky, sort of. It lost the game Opening Day, and allowed the Jays that ridiculous seven-run eighth on Wednesday. Of course, Magglio Ordonez's misplay on a wind-blown flyball opened the floodgates.

Now for a not-too-minor concern.

It's not pleasant to think about, but if backup catcher Vance Wilson's throwing elbow doesn't get better soon, we could be looking at a chronic problem all year, even without surgery being needed. So far, surgery doesn't look necessary -- just rest and some rehab. But keep an eye on this situation, for if Wilson is out of action for the majority of this season, the Tigers will have suffered a major loss. How can that be? Well, Wilson is perhaps the game's finest #2 backstop who works marvelously with the staff here. His value can't be overstated -- and that's coming from the pitchers, and Leyland, if you were to ask him. Better hope for a quick recovery. Fill-in Mike Rabelo gets the start Thursday, apparently.

This week the Tigers will get the Jays again, for four games in Toronto. An interesting early road test, as many feel Toronto has what it takes to make the AL East a three-team race.

First up though this week is Baltimore, my most-hated baseball team of all-time. I hate the Orioles for the same reason I hate the Minnesota Vikings: because the Orioles were the thorns in the Tigers' sides during the early 1970's, when I first started following baseball. Much like how the Vikings terrorized the Lions in the same era.

Sock it to 'em, Tigers!



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