Monday Morning Manager: Week 21
This Week: at KC (8/28-30; CWS 8/31-9/2)
So, What Happened?
It's what didn't happen that was rather frustrating.
The Tigers had a fine 5-1 week at home, but lost ground in the standings, because what didn't happen was a White Sox loss---not a single one. Chicago had a 6-0 week.
Even manager Jim Leyland appears to be scoreboard-watching.
"We have to try to figure some way to play better than the White Sox," the skipper said after Sunday's 5-2 win over the Angels. "They've been answering every bell so far."
MMM isn't panicked, because there are still about six weeks left in the season, and a 2.5 game lead isn't very big at this stage, but a White Sox loss on occasion would be rather nice. They haven't lost since being swept in Kansas City a week ago last weekend.
As for the Tigers, pitching was the key to just about every victory last week---that, and two-out hitting.
The offense wasn't exactly prolific, but it was enough to support one solid start after the other from Tigers starters. Even rookie Drew Smyly got into the act, making a spot start for Doug Fister on Saturday and going six strong.
The Angels had been hot coming into Detroit, their offense humming. But Tigers pitching shut down rookie sensation Mike Trout and slugger Mark Trumbo. The Angels were without Albert Pujols, out with an injured calf.
The week began with a low-scoring three-game sweep of the reeling Toronto Blue Jays, a team ravaged by injury and with only five wins in their past 27 games. The third victory was an exciting 3-2 walk-off win in extras, thanks to pinch-runner Quintin Berry's stolen base and race home on Alex Avila's single.
The only loss of the week was a tough 2-1 decision Friday night, a game in which Ricky Porcello pitched well and only had one "bad" inning.
A 5-1 week ought to have produced a gain in the standings, but last week it didn't. All the Tigers can do is keep pitching and winning and maybe the Chisox will hit a cool spell.
Oh, and Anibal Sanchez even had a good start, so have faith, Tiger Nation!
Hero of the Week
MMM believes that Jhonny Peralta delivered one of the biggest hits of the season on Saturday when he doubled home two runs in the eighth inning, with two outs, giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead on their way to a 5-3 win.
The White Sox were cruising to victory, as usual. The Tigers had fallen behind 3-0---thanks partially to Austin Jackson's first error of the season---and were still trailing 3-2. A loss would have extended Chicago's lead in the division to 3.5 games.
Two were out and earlier in the inning, Miguel Cabrera's long drive to right center had been chased down by Torii Hunter. That appeared to be a bad omen.
Then Peralta struck, scoring Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks (from first base), and just like that, the Tigers were leading. Avila added an insurance run with a single, scoring Peralta.
Jhonny's hit was huge.
MMM thinks it was huge enough to make him HotW, despite a week in which several Tigers chipped in to forge a 5-1 mark.
Honorable mention: Max Scherzer, who picked up two wins and keeps blowing hitters away, threatening to wrest the MLB strikeout crown from Justin Verlander.
Goat of the Week
It is with a heavy heart that MMM select fan favorite Austin Jackson as the GotW, but don't worry---it's mainly because it's hard to find a Goat in a 5-1 week.
But AJ did go 0-13 in the Angels series, and his error (yes, first of the season, MMM gets that) could have put rookie Smyly on the ropes on Saturday. Regardless, the Tigers had to claw back thanks to Jackson's dropped fly ball.
While MMM is nitpicking Jackson, he would be remiss if he failed to mention that Jackson was batting at a .332 clip at the All-Star break, and is at. 302 now. That's a 30-point drop, and while not catastrophic, it's something that MMM feels you need to remember.
It's not enough, right now, to put Jackson UtM, but a 30-point drop in six weeks is a cause for concern, wouldn't you agree?
Under the Microscope
If you thought that MMM had a tough time naming AJ the Goat, that's nothing compared to placing Miguel Cabrera Under the Microscope. Actually, it's Miggy's right ankle that's under the scope.
Cabrera's bum ankle caused him to miss a game on Sunday---his first in about a year---and forced manager Jim Leyland to DH Cabrera the previous two games. This, after Miggy was pulled from Thursday's game in the second inning.
MMM wasn't crazy about Miggy's gait in the two games he played after being pulled, and thus wasn't shocked when Leyland scratched him from Sunday's game. Monday's off day gives Cabrera two days off in a row, essentially.
MMM thinks Cabrera's ankle bears scrutiny because this is an MVP candidate and if he tweaks it and has to miss any significant time...
No need to finish that sentence.
Yes, Cabrera is a gamer and yes, he's never been on the disabled list in his 10-year (yes, 10 years) career. MMM gets that. And MMM knows that being hurt isn't the same as being injured. That said, Cabrera goes UtM anyway because he's just too damn valuable to mess around with.
Upcoming: Royals, White Sox
"Spoiler" is a double-edged word. You really don't want to be one, nor do you want to be the victim of one.
The Tigers play a spoiler this week---the Kansas City Royals. The same Royals team who swept the White Sox out of Missouri a couple weekends back.
The Royals, as usual, are out of the race. They have, as usual, a young and somewhat talented roster that hasn't jelled yet. And they, as usual, are in a position to mess up a playoff contender's plans.
The Tigers can't afford to look past the Royals and set their sights on the White Sox, who come to town for the weekend.
The Royals are either feast or famine, it seems, when you play them. You either sweep them, or get swept. They laid a licking on the White Sox with a combo of good pitching and timely hitting. But then they can look so awful just one day later.
MMM wants 2-of-3 in KC. The pitchers: Sanchez, Justin Verlander (only 12 wins despite an ERA of around 2.50), and Porcello.
On Friday, the White Sox come calling---the Tigers' last shot at them in Detroit this season (barring a playoff matchup).
Just like the Tigers of 2011, this year's White Sox are getting career years from secondary players like Alex Rios and AJ Pierzynski, to support the Paul Konerkos and Adam Dunns of the world. Role players like Gordon Beckham and Tyler Flowers have chipped in with key hits recently.
Lefty rookie starter Chris Sale has been lights out, though with a 2.79 ERA in 71 IP last year, he definitely showed some promise in 2011 so this year's season shouldn't be a total shocker.
MMM doesn't have to tell you how important the series against Chicago is, though the division will not be decided based on it. Repeat: WILL...NOT. No series on Labor Day weekend has the ability to win a division when the distance between two teams is as short as that between the Tigers and the White Sox.
Tigers pitchers: Fister or Smyly, Scherzer, Sanchez. If it's Smyly on Friday, all three Tigers starters' last names will start with S.
S, for Sweep?
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!
Labels: Monday Morning Manager