Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 20

Last Week: 4-4
This Week:  MIN (8/20-22); at NYM (8/23-25)

So, What Happened?

You don't see eight-game weeks very often, but that's exactly what the Tigers had last week.

Thanks to an earlier rainout, the Kansas City Royals came to town and a four-game series turned into a five-gamer. The Royals have been hot after the All-Star break, and the upstart team from Kansas City was looking to "make a statement" in their weekend visit to Detroit.

The Royals came to town 7.5 games out of first place, and after a doubleheader sweep of the Tigers on Friday, they had visions of leaving Detroit 4.5 games back.

But some guy named Miguel Cabrera had other ideas.

Miggy, simply the best hitter on the planet, socked a walk-off homer on Saturday night, then on his first swing on Sunday, smacked a two-run homer to stake the Tigers to a 2-0 lead as they went on to a 6-3 win.

The result? The Royals' fantasies of taking four of five turned into dust. The Tigers shoved the Royals 8.5 games back, and in the process distanced themselves from the second place Cleveland Indians to the tune of seven full games.

Race over?

MMM is hesitant to declare the AL Central to the Tigers, because this is baseball and crazy things can happen, but a prolonged slump/collapse seems unlikely by the Motor City Bengals.

This isn't 2009, when a flawed Tigers team blew a seven-game lead in September and lost a one-game playoff to the Minnesota Twins. The 2013 Tigers are a much more complete team, and loaded with starting pitching.

The Royals still have six games with the Tigers on the schedule, but MMM feels that they simply won't matter all that much. But again, we'll see.

The week began with a disappointing 1-2 record in Chicago against the Pale Hose, making the Tigers 2-4 since their 12-game winning streak. But the Royals series happened, and so did a 3-2 mark.

The week's games were tainted with the revelation that Prince Fielder filed for divorce from his wife Chantel in late May. Naturally, social media and talk radio blew up with amateur psychologists who theorized that Fielder's impending divorce has played a significant role in his struggles since, well, late May.

MMM admits that Fielder's nosedive in BA and power coincided with the filing date, but why can't this be just a coincidence? And if it's not, so what? Pro athletes aren't robots---no matter how much money they make.

Hero of the Week
MMM is considering changing this section to "Miggy's Heroics of the Week."

Seriously, what's going on here?

MMM has seen his share of clutch performers in Detroit. Baseball-wise, Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris come to mind. But nobody comes close to what Miguel Cabrera is doing these days.

MMM wants to pick a different HotW, but Cabrera just keeps doing heroic things.

He's playing hurt, number one. We all know that. Then he does something like win Saturday's game with a walk-off home run, and follows it with a homer on the first pitch he sees on Sunday, which got the Tigers rolling. So two pitches, two big home runs, at a time when the feisty Royals had visions of getting to within 4.5 games of first place.

Honorable mentions: Fielder, for a big home run in the first inning on Friday as the news of his impending divorce caused a stir on talk radio and the Internet; Max Scherzer (18-1); and backup catcher Brayan Pena (filling in very admirably for the concussed Alex Avila).

Goat of the Week
When you go 3-for-28 while you are supposed to be the catalyst, you earn GotW "honors."

Austin Jackson, you are MMM's Goat.

A-Jax was virtually invisible, getting two of his three hits on Sunday---his only two hits in the Royals series. His BA slipped to as low as .258 at one point.

The Tigers managed to win three of five from KC, but they lost two of three to Chicago and MMM can't help but wonder if Jackson's vanishing act last week kept the Tigers from another win or two.

Jackson's overall year has been disappointing. MMM had Jackson penciled in for .300 and 12-15 home runs and 20+ steals.

Not gonna happen. Good thing MMM used pencil!

Things are going pretty good at this point, what with a seven-game lead in the division and all, but MMM would like to see Jackson get on base more frequently. Certainly more than 3-for-28.

Under the Microscope
Is Matt Tuiasosopo this year's Quintin Berry?

MMM wonders if this is so. Berry, the speed demon who captured fans' hearts last year when he filled in for an injured Jackson starting in May, has returned to his previous status as a career minor leaguer.

Tuiasosopo had a great spring training, made the big club, and got off to a terrific start. His BA rose to over .330. But he has come crashing back to Earth, and it's doubly tough for him because he doesn't play everyday. MMM noted with interest that even with the lefty Bruce Chen starting on Sunday, Andy Dirks started in LF over the right-handed hitting Tuey.

With cries for the Tigers to call up prospect Nick Castellanos (who is being groomed as a corner outfielder), will they do so before August 31, thus making Castellanos playoff eligible? And what does this do to Tuey's status?

Hence Tuiasosopo being UtM.

Upcoming: Twins, Mets
Remember the Minnesota Twins?

The Tigers have been so busy playing the other teams in the Central, that the Twins have been put on the back burner in recent weeks.

Well, in case you need a quick refresher, the Twins still stink. They just got beaten three straight by the last place White Sox, to show you.

The Twinkies invade Comerica Park Tuesday-Thursday, though when it comes to the Twins, "invade" may be too strong a word. How about...daintily visit?

OK, OK. MMM shouldn't get too cocky.

Tigers starters: Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander.

The weekend has the Tigers back in New York, but to play the Mets.

The Mets stink, too.

But MMM is eager to see Saturday's game, which promises to match Scherzer with Mets pitching sensation Matt Harvey, who started the All-Star game for the NL.

The Mets still have David Wright, who is having another good season (.309/16/54). Wright's stint on the 15-day DL (hamstring) is due to expire today, so we'll see if he's back in the lineup when the Tigers visit CitiField.

Another interesting player is Marlon Byrd. The right fielder has 19 homers and is hitting a solid .286.

The Mets never really got going this year. They are 56-66 and playing out the string.

Tigers starters: Doug Fister, Scherzer, Porcello.

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



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