Don’t look now, but the Tigers are only two and a half games behind first place Cleveland, as the Indians have been fading after their torrid start. With the Twins apparently dead and buried, and the White Sox looking very vulnerable, the Tigers have a decent chance of winning the Central Division Race.
I’m still not completely sold on Brad Penny, but he struggled through five innings Sunday to shut down the White Sox. He isn’t overpowering, but has been good enough to win five games this season. Justin Verlander was outstanding again on Saturday night, throwing 112 pitches and making just one bad one that went for a two run homer by Gordon Beckham. Once again, it was Miguel Cabrera to the rescue, with his two run homer in the 9th inning that gave the Tigers a four to two win. Verlander should have ten wins this year, if he had gotten more run support from the Tigers’ inconsistent offense.
Tigers reliever Al Alburqueque continues to mow down opponents with his nasty slider and near 100 mph stuff. I’ve seen the comparisons to Joel Zumaya when he first came up in 2006, but I don’t want to jinx him!
And speaking of Tigers relievers, when did Todd Jones make his return to the bullpen? Jose Valverde is reminding me more and more of “Roller Coaster” Jones, always putting a runner or two on in the ninth before getting the final out. But he’s a perfect 15 for 15 in save opportunities, so there’s no harm so far. But a pitcher who always lives dangerously in the late innings is sure to get burned eventually.
The Tigers now move on to play the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers, who are in first place in the West and have won five in a row and eight out of their last ten. They are going to be a lot tougher on the Tigs than the punchless Twins and White Sox. The Sox should serve as a cautionary tale for the Tigers, before they trade for or sign any big money big name players. The White Sox are paying Adam Dunn and Alex Rios a ton of money this year, and they have been a huge disappointment, with both batting under the Mendoza line of .200.