Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 6-0
This Week: (6/25-28: TEX; 6/29-7/1: MIN)

What a wild, wonderful, kinda wacky week for the Tigers.

Two sweeps on the road. A visit to the White House for Justin Verlander, including 20 minutes of face time with the Commander-in-Chief. A trade. Another trade. The return of Kenny Rogers. A couple of national TV games. Sean Casey's first homerun of the season. Andrew Miller shining on ESPN.

That enough for you in one week?

Oh yeah -- the Tigers took over first place, too. They're two games ahead of Cleveland now, thanks to a brilliant 8-1 road trip that saw them bat around so often, it was like a Little League team run amok.

The team is in a zone now, and they're 15-5 since the blowout in Cleveland on June 1, when Todd Jones turned an 11-7 lead into a 12-11 loss in the ninth inning. That's what championship ballclubs do -- they react to brutal losses with disdain and fury. How many of you thought the wheels were coming off after that June 1 debacle? At that moment, the Tigers were 4 1/2 games behind the Indians, a team they were 0-5 against. Their bullpen looked worn to the nub. No lead was safe. They had lost seven of eight. Only the most eternal of optimists could have predicted a 15-5 run at that juncture.

But the Tigers pulled it off, and in three weeks they went from the fading second-place team that couldn't beat Cleveland to a charging first-place team that doesn't look like it can be headed off.

The Blessed Boys are on some kind of run. They are, quite simply, overwhelming their opponents now. Their offense is like a twitching snake -- you never know when it will strike. The other team's pitcher -- even someone like John Smoltz, for goodness sake -- will seem to be cruising along, boring his way thru the Tigers' lineup. Then SNAP -- the snake strikes. Before the poor soul on the mound know what hit him, four or five runs have crossed the plate. They do this. Constantly.

How does this rotation sound? Jeremy Bonderman; Kenny Rogers; Justin Verlander; Andrew Miller; Nate Robertson.

Now how does it sound combined with the major leagues' most potent offense?

Wipe that grin off your face.

This week, seven games at home -- the start of a 13-game homestand. Texas and Minnesota here this week, Cleveland and Boston the week after. The Tigers have been kings of the road thus far in 2007. Time to establish something at Comerica Park, too. Just think how nifty the record will be after a successful homestand; we're talking somewhere in the stratosphere of 53-34, 54-33. Then the All-Star break.

I said, wipe that grin -- ahh, go ahead. I'm grinning, too.



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