Reporting Greg Bowman
Ten to Three. Ten to Four. Three to Two. And Three to Two again. Those were the numbers for the Tigers and Texas Rangers this past weekend at Comerica Park. And considering the Tigers scored only 11 runs compared to the Rangers 25, they were lucky to win even one of those games.
It looked very much like last year’s American League Championship Series, where the Rangers dominated the Tigers in advancing to the World Series. Last fall, it was Nelson Cruz who seemed to hit a home run every time he was up to bat. This time, it was Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli.
It’s not time to panic. The Tigers have won ten games and are in first place in the American League Central. But this weekend’s series was a reminder that the Rangers are not the Kansas City Royals, and the Tigers simply must hit, field and pitch better if they are going to beat the really good teams.
After the opening weekend against the Boston Red Sox, it looked like the Tigers were going to score a ton of runs, with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera leading the attack with home runs every game. But then reality set in. Runs have been much harder to come by. And the bullpen has been a little shaky, although there have been pleasant surprises like Duane Below. On the other hand, Daniel Schlereth has been awful, and has already been sent down to Toledo to try and regain the form he had in the second half of the season.
The starters have been inconsistent too, with Rick Porcello throwing two solid outings, followed by a disaster on Saturday where he gave up 8 runs in the first inning. Max Scherzer has looked better after a terrible first outing. And Justin Verlander has been Verlander-like again, and could have four wins instead of two with a little more luck. And Drew Smyley has pitched well. The Tigers really need to get Doug Fister healthy and back in the rotation.
There has been a lot of talk about the defense costing the Tigers games, but I don’t buy it. The Tigers’ biggest problems have been a lack of offense, especially driving in runners from third with less than two out. The biggest worry, Miguel Cabrera at third base, has not been the nightmare many fans feared. After his opening day jitters, Cabrera has been fine at third base, and has an incredible throwing arm.
I’m not worried about Cabrera and Fielder; they’ll be fine and will start hitting more home runs when the weather warms up. But there are still too many holes in the Tigers’ lineup, namely Brandon Inge and Ryan Rayburn, who never seems to hit until after the All-Star Break. Inge did have a game winning home run, but has gone hitless since. And the boo birds are getting louder. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was cut or traded by May.
Despite the Tigers’ problems, things could be worse. Look at Boston. This season has been a disaster for the Red Sox and new manager Bobby Valentine. They lost their closer before the season started. And this weekend, they blew a 9 to 0 lead and lost to their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. Ouch. Seems like the Babe Ruth curse has come back to Fenway Park.