Positive Signs From Wrigley
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By: Jaime Samuelsen
Taking two out of three from the Cubs and the Reds hardly qualifies as a red-hot streak. But a winning road trip and the chance to pick up some ground in the division is something the Tigers will take after slowly sinking over the past few weeks.
Today’s 5-3 win may not be the lynchpin turnaround game, but there were some really nice things that happened.
1) After scuffling a bit over the past three starts, Justin Verlander was back to being JV. Sure, it helps that the Cubs best hitter was probably their pitcher Travis Wood, but Verlander was in full cruise mode after a rocky second inning. He allowed just two hits in his last six innings of work and earned a victory for the first time since his near no-hitter against the Pirates on May 18th. Verlander failed to get into the seventh inning in each of his last three starts. Not so today.
2) The Tigers are starting to get contributions from the ‘other guys’ in the lineup. Miguel Cabrera was 0-for-5. Prince Fielder did have an RBI double in the first. But it was Ryan Raburn with an RBI double in the second and Austin Jackson with a clutch, two-out run-scoring single in the seventh that gave the Tigers the win. Jackson added on a two-run insurance bomb in the ninth. Cabrera and Fielder are both having All-Star seasons. If they can start to get a third or fourth guy in the lineup approaching that level, the offense should start to perform the way that we figured it would when the season started.
3) A nice clean game by the defense. After the Jhonny Peralta debacle on Tuesday night, the Tigers turned in 18 innings of error-free baseball. Verlander helps make that possible with eight strikeouts and forcing some weak-struck balls. But after the way this defense has played this season, error-free baseball is just that. And credit Delmon Young for a strong play to cut down Wood at second base in the sixth when he was trying to stretch a single to a double.
4) Is it me, or is the bullpen starting to become a strength? Jose Valverde hadn’t allowed a base runner since his walk on the wild side against the Yankees two weeks ago. He did allow a leadoff double that turned into a run in the ninth, but it was inconsequential. Joaquin Benoit hasn’t allowed an earned run in has last seven outings (which covers seven innings). And Brayan Villareal threw two perfect innings last night, which was vital in relief of Rick Porcello.
The Tigers are still under .500 and they’re still looking up at both the Indians and the White Sox. But with three home games coming up against the Rockies, there is more opportunity to make up some ground. They may not be on fire yet. But at least they appear to be headed in the right direction.