Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 2-4
This Week: (7/3-5: CLE; 7/6-8: BOS)

OK, I'm hesitant to make too much out of a regular season game played on July 1, but I'll lay you dollars to doughnuts that the Tigers players -- and even gruff manager Jim Leyland -- will agree with me: last night's 1-0 win over Minnesota was HUGE.

The Tigers had lost four out of the first five in this 12-game homestand. They looked lifeless against freaking Scott Baker, he of the 5.77 ERA and .299 opponent BA. One hit thru six innings. And that lone hit -- a leadoff triple by Curtis Granderson in the fourth -- was followed by weak at-bats from the nos. 2, 3, and 4 hitters. Grandy stayed stranded at third.

Thankfully, Jeremy Bonderman was just as effective, and the teams went into the eighth inning scoreless.

The first two Tigers went out -- lifeless again. Then Marcus Thames, the most powerful Tigers hitter the team has employed this side of Cecil Fielder, smacked Baker's offering -- a force-fed shot into left field, over the wall.

Todd Jones -- amazingly enough -- pitched a quick, painless, 1-2-3 ninth for the save.


The win doesn't mean the Tigers' little funk is over with. But it was MUCH needed. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz -- know what I mean?

The Tigers won the game despite only mustering three hits off Baker, who got hung with a loss that can only be justified by saying, "That's baseball." They didn't pount the other team into submission, as they so often do. But that's OK -- because to win a division or make the playoffs as a Wild Card, you're going to have to win some 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 ballgames.

Bonderman gave the Tigers a chance to win on a night when his teammates looked limp against a mediocre pitcher. That's what good teams' top-tier starters are supposed to do, when the bats are like balsa wood.

Coming up, the Indians and Red Sox visit, which should make for a fun week at Comerica Park. But the Tigers have to start making some hay at home. They're 20-18 at CoPa, and that's not a championship-caliber record. Can't rely on winning all these road games. And psychologically, a 12-game homestand is supposed to translate into a padding of the record, so when it doesn't happen, it's a downer.

The Tribe is hot again, just in time for their invasion of Detroit. In late May, the Indians swept the Tigers at CoPa. Can't have a repeat of that this week.

P.S.: Congratulations to Troy Percival, whose comeback with the St. Louis Cardinals has been so far, so good. Percival, 37, hadn't pitched in the big leagues in about two years when he joined the Cardinals a couple weeks ago. Yesterday, Percival got his second win in the weekend series with the Reds. He's 2-0. Well, 3-0 -- when you consider the comeback itself.



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