By Greg Bowman
If you heard that one of the Tigers had a homer and three hits to lead the team to a 5 to 2 victory over the Chicago White Six, your first guess might be Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder. Nope. How about Austin Jackson, Alex Avilla, Delmon Young, or even Ryan Raybun? Wrong again. The unlikely hitting hero for the Tigs on Sunday was Gerald Laird, getting the start at catcher to give Avilla the day off.
The Tigers brought Laird back this season because Avilla ran out of gas at the end of last year, especially during the playoffs. But Manager Jim Leyland was forced to keep writing Avilla’s name in the lineup because he didn’t really have a backup catcher. So they signed Laird for his defense, and to keep Avilla fresh. So what happened Sunday was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Don’t expect Laird to suddenly emerge as one of the league’s leading hitters, but it’s nice to know that he’s not the automatic out that some fans may have feared.
Laird’s big day could not have come at a more opportune time. The Tiger bats had gone ice cold in Chicago, after a red hot start to the season. It was an especially frustrating weekend for Miguel Cabrera, one of the best hitters in baseball and the defending American League Batting Champion. He failed to get a single hit in the series, something no one can ever remember seeing from him. The Tigers scored only 8 runs in three games, and were lucky to leave town with one victory against the suddenly resurgent Sox, who may give the Tigers more trouble than expected in the race for the AL Central Division title. But don’t worry about Cabrera. He’ll be fine. Cabrera and Prince Fielder still combine to be the most feared one-two punch in baseball. And you just can’t score ten runs every game.
One of the bright spots so far this season has been Austin Jackson, who has been hitting the ball hard, getting on base, and scoring runs since the opening game, thanks to a change in his batting stance that seems to have paid off. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
Rick Porcello has also had two very strong outings, and is the only Tiger starter to record a victory so far, with the rest coming from the bullpen. The Tigers really need Porcello to step up with Doug Fister on the DL an an inconsistent Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander has been excellent, but bad luck has kept him from getting a win. That should change Monday night in Kansas City against the Royals.
Is it just me, or does Jose Valverde just not look right so far? His outings have been very up and down. The Tigers know they need him to be an effective closer if they’re going to compete for the post season and the World Series this year.