Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Morning Manager

Last Week: 0-4
This Week: TEX (7/19-21); TOR (7/22-25)



So What Happened?

Do you really want to know?

The Tigers went to Cleveland and they wished they hadn't. That's not unusual---Cleveland's a great town if you want to spend a weekend but only have a few hours---but in this case it was even worse.

The Tigers came off the All-Star Break refreshed, invigorated, and hot. They were a mere half-game behind the White Sox for first place, and three full games in front of the third-place Twins.

Then they went to Cleveland and became their own worst Mistake by the Lake.

The Tigers couldn't hit. Aside from Rick Porcello, they really didn't pitch. The Indians looked like those terrors of the mid-1990s, not the pratfallers of the mid-1980s---as they have for most of this season.

The result?

An Indians four-game sweep, with the Tigers outscored 21-8 and licking their wounds.

The Twins took three of four from the Chisox in Minnesota and have pulled virtually even with the Tigers, 1-1/2 games behind Chicago.


Hero of the Week

Sadly, that's an easy call: MMM chooses Rick Porcello.

The just-recalled Porcello, making his first Tigers start in weeks---after serving time in Toledo---pitched brilliantly on Saturday night. He didn't walk anyone. He had command of his pitches, and even threw a slider on a 3-1 count---something Porcello himself could scarcely believe.

Didn't matter; Tigers lost, 2-1.

But Porcello was very good, which gives hope to Tigers fans worried about the starting rotation's depth. Funny how, back in April, Porcello was counted on as being the solid No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander. Now, we're thrilled that he looked good after a stint in the minors.

That's baseball for you.


Goat of the Week

Take your pick.

Nothing went right in Cleveland, save Porcello's start.

The heart of the Tigers' order---Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Brennan Boesch---was as quiet as a church mouse all weekend. The stellar Indians pitching staff---yes, I'm being smarmy and bitterly sarcastic---shut them down, for four straight games.

The pitching was nasty, and not in the good meaning of that word.

The overall play was lethargic and trance-like.

"We weren't ready to play, and that's my responsibility," manager Jim Leyland said. "Frankly, I'm shocked."

Frankly, I'm not; Leyland's second half Tigers have mostly been the evil twin of the first half version since 2006.

Upcoming: Rangers and Blue Jays

Those days of last-place teams invading Comerica Park, bringing switchblades to gun battles, are long gone.

The real big league teams will be frequenting the joint from here on out, with few exceptions.

It all starts tonight with the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.

But the Tigers won't see lefty starter Cliff Lee, who pitched Saturday and is not scheduled to start again until after the Rangers leave town.

Still, the Rangers are formidable. They are second in the league in team batting average. They can rock you with Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Michael Young. All of them are batting .300-plus this season. And don't forget RF Nelson Cruz, who's sailing along at .319.

An intriguing pitching matchup occurs Tuesday, when Armando Galarraga returns to the Tigers after a brief stint in Toledo. He'll go up against right-hander Tommy Hunter, who's 6-0 with a 2.39 ERA.

The Rangers have lost a mind-boggling 11 straight games in Detroit, which makes MMM feel uneasy; those streaks can't go on forever, you know.

A four-game series with the Blue Jays used to make the town buzz in Detroit.

That was when the Tigers and Jays were both tenants of the AL East, back in the good old days.

But the Jays aren't chopped liver, and here they come for a four-game set, starting Thursday.

The Jays are funny; they lead the majors in home runs, yet are batting just .243 as a team and have scored just 421 runs, which puts them in the middle of the MLB pack. So they clearly aren't manufacturing a lot of runs.

But they can bash you---no less then eight Blue Jays are in double digits in home runs.

Jose Bautista is a great example of the Blue Jays' all-or-nothing offense. The RF has 25 homers and 58 RBI, yet is batting only .233. Maybe those 72 strikeouts have something to do with that.

Comerica Park is no haven for right-handed hitters, and most of the Jays' sluggers bat that way. So we'll see which force serves to be more stubborn.


That's all for this week's MMM. See you next Monday!

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