By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Walking into the Detroit Tigers clubhouse after Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners, the music pumped louder than usual, the players looked downright joyful, six or seven bouncing a soccer ball between them as they yelled and laughed, and the reason for all the excitement was abundantly clear.
The Tigers have played 150 games over the last 169 days, a schedule that definitely qualifies as a grind, but the enthusiasm for the rest of the year grows strong as the postseason gets even closer.
“The last week or so, we’re just trying to dig deep because September hits, sometimes you get kind of laid back, and you get tired, so we just try to pump ourselves up, and after the game we always try to turn the music up loud and jump up and down and huddle and we started screaming loud for no reason – I don’t know why we do that,” veteran right fielder Torii Hunter said with a laugh. “It exerts a lot of energy and we have a lot of fun, but we want to do it again, so we have to win. Only time we get to do it is if we win, and I think that’s – we’ve got to have something to motivate us because it’s September, and sometimes you can see the team getting down, so you’ve got to do something to pump it back up.”
As fun as the energy is, the drive is there too. 24-year-old Rick Porcello pitched in the Tigers’ win Monday, allowing just one run in six innings while striking out 10 in one of his best performances of the season. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera may have fallen off his pace of a homer every three games because of his injuries, but Porcello still feels the Tigers are hitting a stride at the right time.
Detroit did not exactly struggle through the first half of the season, but with increased contributions from designated hitter Victor Martinez, first baseman Prince Fielder and catcher Alex Avila – all of whom did have a hard time at the plate through mid-July – the lineup looks stronger than ever.
Besides that, the starting pitching rotation that looked so great early still looks remarkably solid. Even better, the bullpen is fairly reliable.
“As a ball club, we’re really coming on strong here,” Porcello said. “Guys are coming in with energy. It’s September. Everybody’s had a long season, but everybody’s coming in with energy and good focus, and we’re playing good, hard baseball.”
Detroit will play 11 games in 12 days to end the regular season, and then the postseason starts. The Tigers, with a six-game lead in the American League Central Division, are undoubtedly looking forward to the playoffs, but for now they are focused on finishing the regular season well.
“We still have to get some work done,” closer Joaquin Benoit said, “and try to make sure you get everything taken care of, and hopefully the other teams do their job too.”