If you are of a certain age, you might remember the line from the old TV show: Will The Real Detroit Tigers please stand up? Are they the team that has won seven straight and ten out of their last 11? Or are they the team that stumbled out of the game and lost seven straight just a couple of weeks ago?
Like all Tiger fans, I want to believe that they are closer to the former than the latter. But you can expect that the Tigs will go through more stretches of ups and downs over the rest of the season, which still has a long way to go. The turnaround really started two weeks ago with Justin Verlander’s no-hitter. That set the stage for the rest of the Tiger starters, who have been exceptional over that period. Verlander followed his no hitter by flirting with a second straight no-no, keeping the Royals from getting a hit until 2 out in the sixth inning on Friday night, and finishing with just one run and two hits in 8 innings. Brad Penny followed that with a shutout on Saturday, and unfortunately, Mother Nature kept the Tigers from continuing their streak with a rain out on Sunday.
Max Scherzer has also been lights out, and will try to become the first seven game winner in the Majors his next time out Monday against the Blue Jays. Rick Porcello has also been outstanding his last few times on the mound. The only Tiger starter who has struggled is Phil Coke, but he has also suffered from lack of support from the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, the Tigers’ relievers have definitely been inconsistent, especially Joaquin Benoit, who was so good for the Rays last year. But fortunately, the Tiger starters have been going deep into games, so the pen has not been a big issue. But the team will need those guys to be more effective if the Tigers are going to compete all season. The Tigers have not had to worry about their closer, Jose Valverde, who has returned to the form that made him so dominant in the first half of 2010.
We have heard some encouraging news lately about Joel Zumaya and Carlos Guillen, who seem to always be on the Disabled List. But frankly, I’m not counting on either of them this season. I think Zumaya has just about run out of chances, and I don’t really ever see him coming back to pitch for the Tigers again. Guillen might return to the roster at some point this season, but who would you bump out to put him in the lineup? Jhonny Peralta is setting the league on fire at shortstop, and Scott Sizemore has been a real sparkplug since returning from Toledo. And even if Guillen returned, how long would it be until he’s hurt again? I say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Let’s just keep playing the hot hand we’ve got right now!