Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Morning Manager 2011, Edition 19

Last week: 4-2
This week: at Cle (8/9-11); at Bal (8/12-14)

So, What Happened?

The mantra at this time of the year, when a division is there to be won, is "Just win two out of three, baby."

The Tigers did a good job of that last week.

They played a first place team and a last place team, and it didn't matter; the Tigers beat the Rangers and Royals 2-of-3 for a successful 4-2 week.

Even more impressive was that the Tigers finished their season series with the defending AL champs at 6-3, a point manager Jim Leyland stressed over the weekend in Kansas City.

Justin Verlander's march to 20 victories drew closer as he won no. 16 Saturday.

Hero of the Week

There have been three Brennan Boesches so far, and he's just in his second year in the big leagues.

There was the 1st Half Boesch of 2010, who lit up the league. There was the 2nd Half Boesch of 2010 who couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. And there's the 2011 Boesch, who has been mostly good and very consistent---an amalgam of last year's Jekyll and Hyde versions.

Boesch struck twice last week, a hero coming to the rescue---directly winning two games for the Tigers.

He hit a dramatic home run in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, through raindrops, lifting the Tigers into the lead over Texas. Jose Valverde cemented the victory in the ninth.

On Friday night in Kansas City, Boesch delivered a clutch single in the 10th inning, driving home pinch-runner Andy Dirks with the eventual gane-winning run.

Boesch is becoming a calming presence at the plate in tense situations, which can only help the Tigers down the stretch as each game takes on greater significance.

Honorable mention: Valverde, who had four saves last week, remaining perfect in 2011.

Goat of the Week

This is a tough call and some may say even unfair, but MMM is going to pick on Carlos Guillen and name him GotW.

Guillen struggled all week, his batting average sinking to the low .200s.

And his struggles came on the heels of last Sunday's tension-filled game with the Angels, in which Guillen clubbed a notorious home run off Jered Weaver, which led to quite a hub-bub.

It's probably coincidence, but MMM finds it odd that Guillen went into the tank, albeit temporarily, after the fireworks against Weaver.

Some in Tiger Nation have suggested that the Angels game pitting Weaver against Verlander, because of its high theater, might be looked back upon as the turning point of this season---for the good, a la the Stanley Cup-winning Red Wings of 1997, who kicked it into another gear after the famous brawls with the Colorado Avalanche late that season.

MMM guesses that Guillen hasn't gotten that memo yet.

Under the Microscope

MMM hopes this is much ado about nothing, but catcher/DH/1B Victor Martinez tweaked his knee on Saturday, trying to avoid a tag at the plate.

V-Mart was held out of Sunday's game, likely as a precaution. Leyland wasn't too concerned about Martinez's knee on Saturday night.

But knees, like backs and groins, can take a turn for the worse in a hurry.

Martinez is in line to be the first Tiger since George Kell in 1950 to drive in 100+ runs while hitting fewer than 10 home runs.

Martinez's arrival has made the 2011 Tigers a far better team than last year's.

Which is why he---specifically, his knee---is UtM.

Upcoming: Indians, Orioles

MMM thinks this could be the week that the Tigers break the backs of their contenders in the AL Central.

The staggering Indians, 26-41 since their 30-15 start, are ripe for the picking. The Tigers' lead over the second-place Tribe is currently four games.

Remember the mantra?

If the Tigers can win 2-of-3 in Cleveland, their lead will be five games, and guess who's next on the schedule?

That's right---the last-place Orioles of the AL East.

With August approaching its halfway mark, the Tigers could see their lead grow to six or more games, if they put together a good week against two slumping teams.

The Orioles are 44-67, but they're 27-30 in their home ballpark---and they took 2-of-3 from the Tigers way back in the season's opening week.

Verlander pitches Thursday, setting him up to go against the Indians again when they visit Detroit the weekend of August 19-21.

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



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