Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 6-1
This Week: (9/17-19: at Cle; 9/21-23: KC)

Remember when the Metrodome used to be a House of Horrors for the Tigers?

Even if the Tigers don't make it into the October baseball tournament, they've at least exorcised one demon: that damned Metrodome in Minnesota.

The Tigers swept the Twins over the weekend, making it six straight in the HHH Dome. Todd Jones saved all six of those games. The last one was the biggest for Jonesy -- no. 300 in the saves department.

But did you join me later in the night in a good chorus of "F---ing Yankees?" The Bronx Bombers did it to Boston again -- a clutch, late innings victory, thanks to Derek Jeter's three-run swat in the 8th inning. This after scoring six runs in the 8th on Friday night to erase a 7-2 deficit.

So the Tigers, who are absolutely playing scared baseball now to the tune of 10-2 in their last 12, instead of being 1-1/2 games out of the Wild Card are still 2-1/2 out, thanks to Jeter's heroics. Not an impossible mountain to climb, but a one-game difference now (between being 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 out), with just two weeks left in the season, can take on Everest-like qualities.

Jones appeared emotional after the final out was made in Minnesota yesterday. It came after another typically rocky outing. The Twins loaded the bases before Michael "I'm Suddenly Horrible" Cuddyer grounded into a game-ending fielder's choice. I think I saw Jones crying on the field as his teammates hugged him, one-by-one. Then when it came time to give manager Jim Leyland some love, the skipper looked to be on the verge of squeezing out some wet ones, too.

I think that's cool. You don't see enough genuine emotion on the field of play anymore. Mostly the reactions are premeditated, insincere acts of showmanship. Jones, not shy to break down in front of a camera, went all Dick Vermeil on the Metrodome's carpet. Good for him.

The Central Division still looks like a lost cause, despite the deficit being bumped down to 4-1/2 games yesterday and the Tigers having three more shots at Cleveland, starting tonight. It would, realistically, take nothing less than a sweep to declare the Tigers still in it. Do you see the Indians being swept at home, the way they're playing lately?

I said it last week in this space. The Yankees started last week with a magic number of 16 to edge out the Tigers for the Wild Card. I told you to write that number down somewhere and deduct one for every Yankees win and Tigers loss. Did you do that? Well, if you didn't, the magic number is now down to 11. So get that paper and Sharpie out and do it this time!

Oh, just for fun: the Tigers' magic number to surpass the Yankees is ... 16. May as well have two pieces of paper going on at the same time. Ya never know.



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