These are the “Dog Days” of summer for Major League Baseball , when teams that were riding high in the spring are fading under the hot July and August skies. And as we move into the second week of August, the Tigers find themselves first place in the American League Central, with a four game lead over second place Cleveland . So far, the Tigers have not shown any signs of their traditional second half fade. The big reason for that has been, and continues to be, Justin Verlander.
Verlander’s dominance has added up to 16 wins, and could have been higher with more hitting support. When Verlander comes to the mound, Manager Jim Leyland (and the fans) can feel pretty confident that any losing streak will come to an end. Almost as good as Verlander, but flying under the radar because of J.V.’s Cy Young Season, has been closer Jose Valverde. He is a perfect 32 for 32 in saves. Even the great Mariano Rivera has blown a couple of saves. While Valverde often makes it interesting, he gets it done with a flourish. He needs just one more save to top the amazing Guillermo Hernandez’s string of saves in the 1984 World Championship year.
While I feel good about the Tigers’ chances this year, we can’t forget 2009, when the Tigers had a 7 game lead late in the season, and three game lead with four games to go, but wound up losing to the Minnesota Twins in a special one game playoff to determine the division title. The Tigers face a key test starting Tuesday, when they open a three game series against the Indians. A sweep would put the Tigers in a great position, seven games in front. But if the Indians get hot, the lead could be trimmed to one game. That’s what so fascinating, and often frustrating about a 162 game season. The teams that wind up on top are those that can survive the injuries, the bad luck, the hot streaks and the cold streaks, and keep their eye on the October prize. So two out of three sounds pretty good to me.