Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 12

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at Tex (6/25-27); at TB (6/28-7/1)

So, What Happened?

Interleague play is done for 2012, and for the Tigers it's bittersweet.

In a way, they're happy to have once again fed on the NLers to the tune of an 11-7 record, but the National League rules on the road were starting to wear on manager Jim Leyland, given his injury-riddled roster.

What's more pressing is worrying about getting through the rest of this 10-game road trip while also staying within shouting distance of the Indians and White Sox.

The Tigers managed to go 3-3 while their offense again abandoned them. During one four-game stretch (Wednesday thru Saturday), the Tigers scored a grand total of five runs. They lost three of the four.

Even Sunday's 3-2 win, though huge, made MMM uneasy because after scoring twice in the first inning, the Tigers bats again turned into cooked spaghetti until the eighth, when Delmon Young's single broke a 2-2 tie.

A win is a win, but after taking Game 1 of the Cardinals series, the Tigers are 2-3 and have scored eight runs in those five games.

MMM is getting antsy again about the offense, something that appeared to be correcting itself last week at this time.

Oh, and Justin Verlander is very good at pitching baseballs.

Hero of the Week

MMM certainly isn't going to dole out a Hero to anyone who swings a bat, not in a week when runs were as plentiful as teeth in a hockey player's mouth.

So MMM finds himself selecting the default hero, when the offense is slumbering.

You get one guess.

Justin Verlander, once again, saved the Tigers' bacon, tossing a complete game victory at the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday, salvaging the final game of the series and ovcalmlercoming a stunning two-run homer by Garrett Jones in the seventh inning which tied the game, albeit briefly.

On Tuesday, JV started the Cardinals series in Detroit with a win. He's 8-4 and on a three-game winning streak after going 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in the four starts prior.

Sunday was classic Verlander, classic pitching that Jim Leyland described afterward as "The horse pitching like the horse," in remarks to FSD's John Keating during post-game coverage.

Verlander didn't let Jones's shocking home run---the Bucs had managed just two soft singles prior to the seventh inning---bother him. The Tigers offense, to their credit, scratched out a run in the eighth and Verlander calmly set the Pirates down in the final two innings, like a reigning Cy Young and MVP winner should.

JV bookended the week with victories for the Tigers, and he did it in style, especially on Sunday. And that's why he's MMM's Hero of the Week.

Honorable mention (and MMM DOES mean honorable): Max Scherzer, for a courageous pitching performance on Saturday, which came just two days after his younger brother passed away.

Goat of the Week
MMM is getting cranky with catcher Alex Avila.

Al-Av just returned from the disabled list on Thursday, but it didn't take long for him to get into MMM's dog house.

Actually, it's a carry over from before Avila's DL time---way before.

MMM has been sour with Avila since the season's opening weeks. His walk-off homer on Easter Sunday has been his lone highlight, really.

Avila has been one of the many drags on the Tigers offense---but more specifically, one of the 2011 All-Stars whose performance this year has left a lot to be desired.

He joined the team for Thursday's game, played all three games in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and had one bad at-bat after the other. Saturday, Avila struck out on three pitches to end the ballgame, representing the tying run. None of the three swings were good, and neither were any of the pitches.

MMM is losing patience, fearing that Avila's 2011 was an aberration and the 2012 version is closer to what we should expect.

There's still 90 games to play, but MMM isn't seeing any signs of a turnaround.

Under the Microscope
This week, MMM almost literally means Under the Microscope.

The Tigers lost closer Jose Valverde last week due to a wrist sprain. Right now it's not deemed serious but who the heck knows? MMM has seen plenty of so-called "non-serious" injuries turn into season-long annoyances.

The image of Papa Grande in obvious pain, as beamed by FSD during Tuesday night's win over the Cardinals, was more than a little disturbing.

So MMM doesn't feel that it's an overreaction to place Valverde UtM until further notice. Any long term absence would have serious implications for the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit would move into the closer's role, thus vacating his eighth inning setup job, at which he's been brilliant this season.

The dominoes would then start to fall, as Valverde's loss would change some key relievers' roles and the way Leyland manages the pen. The potential for disaster makes MMM cringe.

MMM wouldn't be surprised to even see Phil Coke close some games if Valverde's injury suddenly gets upgraded from non-serious to, "UH-OH."

Upcoming: Rangers, Rays

The 10-game caravan continues with stops in Texas and Tampa this week.

It's not getting any easier, this road trip!

Nothing like a couple of serious playoff/World Series contenders to juice up a trip.

The Rangers, however, did stumble a bit in late May as the LA Angels made a move and climbed back into the AL West race. All-World player Josh Hamilton spent a night in the hospital recently due to dehydration brought on by a stomach virus.

Oh, who is MMM kidding? The Rangers are a kick ass team and that's exactly what they did to the Tigers in Game 6 of last year's ALCS---kicked their ass.

The Rangers took three of four from the Tigers in April. Funny, but that's exactly when things started to go sideways for Detroit. The Tigers were 9-3 when the Rangers came calling, and before long, Leyland's boys were 10-10 and beginning their free fall into mediocrity.

The Rays are, once again, all about pitching. They love to beat you, 2-1 or 3-2, especially at home, where they can use that fake grass to their advantage, particularly in the late innings when scratching out runs usually means the difference between winning and losing.

This isn't good news for a Tigers offense that has been more miss than hit this season. But, who knows? These things sometimes have a way of surprising you.

Last week the Tigers looked to be turning the corner. This week we'll find out if a mugging awaits them around that corner.

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



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