Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Morning Manager 2011, Edition 20

Last week: 3-3
This week: MIN (8/15-17); CLE (8/19-21)

So, What Happened?

It was a week where the Tigers could have put some significant space between themselves and the Cleveland Indians (and Chicago White Sox, for that matter), but it didn't really happen. In fact, the Tigers actually lost ground last week.

A "Justin Verlander to the rescue" win on Thursday night in Cleveland started a mini winning streak of three games, but the Bengals weren't able to sweep the woeful Baltimore Orioles, while the Indians had themselves a fine 4-1 week (with one rainout).

A week that began with a four-game lead in the AL Central has given way to this week, with the Tigers' lead sitting at 2.5 games over the Tribe and four games over the surging and streaky White Sox.

Hero of the Week

This is a tough call.

Should MMM, once again, go with Verlander, who again came to the Tigers' rescue on Thursday night in Cleveland?

Or how about set-up man Joaquin Benoit, or closer Jose Valverde, whose perfect season has been overshadowed by JV's?

Or maybe even Andy Dirks, the rookie outfielder who has been splendid in relief of the ailing Brennan Boesch?

Heck, how about the bullpen in general, which had a good week and had a good one before that?

This is getting old, but MMM is tabbing Verlander.

It's hard to argue against it, really; Verlander saved the Tigers' bacon with another solid performance in a game where the Indians could have closed to within one game.

Yes, JV nearly coughed up an early 4-0 lead, but the key word is almost. When the outs had to be gotten, Verlander got them. The Tigers' pen was weakened by Tuesday's 14-inning game.

Besides, MMM wouldn't have to keep naming JV as the HotW if he wasn't always pitching after a Tigers loss!

Honorable mentions: see above.

Goat of the Week

Doug Fister didn't give the Tigers a prayer on Sunday in Baltimore.

Fister, the righty acquired from Seattle last month, made his first start after his previous one was shortened to two innings due to rain in Cleveland.

But again, Fister was all wet, even under the mostly sunny skies in Maryland.

Surrendering one hit after another---several on 0-2 pitches or otherwise ahead in the count, Fister was rocked all over Camden Yards and left in the sixth inning with the Tigers behind, 8-1.

The Tigers took 2 of 3 in Baltimore, but a sweep would have been sweet. It would have meant a four-game winning streak and maybe, just maybe, the start of a much-needed hot streak to create separation in the divisional race.

Instead, Fister was throwing batting practice at the Orioles.

Dishonorable mention goes to FSD announcer Mario Impemba, who uttered, "The Tigers have been keeping Nick Markakis in check" just before Markakis slammed a two-run homer in the first inning.

Under the Microscope

The Tigers have a new second baseman---again.

Actually, it's an old one: Will Rhymes, who has been recalled from Toledo to replace the ever-injured Carlos Guillen, who is on the 15-day DL with a wrist ailment.

Needless to say, this puts Rhymes immediately UtM.

Not just because he's replacing the slumping Guillen, but because it's time to find out who the real Will Rhymes is.

Is he the guy who hit .300 in about 200 at-bats last season?

Or is he the guy who won the 2B job in spring training, only to defecate all over it once the bell rang for real in April?

We'll see---maybe.

Manager Jim Leyland didn't start Rhymes on Sunday, so it's anyone's guess how much playing time Rhymes will get before Guillen returns---IF Guillen returns.

Upcoming: Twins, Indians

The Tigers get a do-over this week.

Unable to create separation last week, the Tigers will get another crack at the Indians this weekend, in Detroit.

Before that, the Tigers host the free-falling Minnesota Twins, losers of 11 of their last 13. This will happen while the Indians are in Chicago to deal with the on-again, off-again White Sox. Right now the White Sox are on, 8-2 in their last 10.

Once again, a chance to make some hay in the division.

Something to consider: Verlander starts on Tuesday, but because of Thursday's off day, he will miss the Indians this weekend. Leyland said he wasn't going to start JV on Sunday, despite the fact that Verlander would have his requisite four days rest.

Smart move? We'll see.

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



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