Monday Morning Manager
Week of 8/31-9/6: 6-1
This week: 9/8-10: at KC; 9/11-14: TOR
(Sorry for the abbreviated post this week, but MMM has to hustle off to a Labor Day BBQ!)
Goat of the Week
This is a first for MMM: NO goats for last week.
How could there be? A six-game winning streak (more on that later), including a three-game sweep in Tampa over the Rays, further ripping the road monkey off the Tigers' backs.
The series in Tampa was filled with clutch hitting, good defense, and solid pitching when it mattered most. The Indians were swept out of Detroit, as they should when one team has something to play for and the other doesn't.
So, no goats last week. There can't be. MMM would come off unseemly if it did that!
Hero of the Week
OK, where to begin?
Brandon Inge, for his ninth inning grand slam on Sunday to give the Tigers the sweep?
Justin Verlander, for more terrific pitching?
Brandon Lyon, for ably stepping in for Fernando Rodney?
The kids from Toledo, pinch-hitting and pinch-running for the cause?
Nate Robertson, for twirling 10 innings since his return in two starts, and only surrendering one run?
Hey, what about manager Jim Leyland, for kicking Joe Maddon's ass in Tampa?
Heroes were abound last week, as the Tigers extended their lead in the Central Division to sven full games over the Twins.
Quick scouting reports: Royals and Blue Jays
This week, the Tigers play two teams going into the toilet.
The Royals have been horrific since the All-Star break, and the Blue Jays recently had a 5-15 streak.
The Royals have Zach Greinke, but that's about it. Their staff has been riddled with injuries, and their offense is virtually non-existent. Now Jose Guillen is likely lost for the season, as if the Royals needed THAT.
The Blue Jays and Tigers haven't met since Opening Week, when the Jays took three of four in Canada. It's another scheduling quirk, like the one the Tigers just encountered by scrunching all seven of their games with the Rays into 10 days.
Under the microscope
It'll bear watching to see how Jim Leyland uses Nate Robertson.
Old Nate is back, and if his first two starts are any indication, he might function as a late-season acquisition from another team.
Robertson should be the fifth starter, as Armando Galarraga hasn't earned that right with his latest appearance.
Robertson's stamina will be watched. He went four innings in his first start, and six in his second.
Oh, and with the return of Nate comes the return of "Gum Time", that rally-inducing breaking out of the bubblegum that worked so well in 2006. It sure worked over the weekend in Tampa, and against the Indians on Thursday afternoon.
So MMM is putting Nate Robertson---actually, the way he's used---under the microscope.
Bottom line: Last Monday night on "The Knee Jerks", MMM said that if the Tigers could just go on a five or six-game winning streak, they could probably put the division race to bed. The reasoning was that the teams chasing them couldn't keep up with that kind of winning.
Well, after uttering those words, the Tigers promptly won six in a row, and it looks like the division race is indeed put to bed. The magic number is a measly 20, with about three weeks and some change left.
Perhaps there was no bigger win, in terms of defining a season, than Sunday's comeback in Tampa.
The Tigers could have packed it in, satisfied with winning the first two games of the series. The first batter was retired in the ninth. Then Maddon got cute and started changing pitchers, when Lance Cormier was doing just fine, thank you.
Then the Tigers made Maddon pay for his cuteness.
That four-run rally in the ninth Sunday might be the game we point to as the one that symbolically clinched the division for the Tigers. We'll see.
Tigers' magic number to clinch the division: 20
That's all for this week's MMM. Join me every Monday!
P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host "The Knee Jerks" on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!
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