By Dan Leach
It was getting as late as it possibly could. The Tigers were down to their last strike after getting one of the most advantageous replay calls of the season to go their way. Torri Hunter was at the plate, down to his final strike, and found a way to work a walk to put two on and two out. Then, the best hitter possibly of the generation stepped to the plate to face a closer throwing in the high 90’s. Well, it didn’t take long as Miguel Cabrera went hard at Camden Yards, capping one of the craziest ninth innings any Tigers fan can remember in recent memory.
It is only one regular season game of 162 this season, but what transpired in the cool Baltimore night air on Tuesday night had a truly magical quality about it. Through 35 games this year, you can already see what the Tigers are doing better than in each of the last two seasons — one that ended in a World Series berth, the other on the cusp of it. The Tigers are getting the timely hits that San Francisco and Boston got when they knocked the Tigers out.
There are still some issues that will need to be addressed, like shortstop and the Tigers lack of left-handed bats, but those are “B” problems compared to all the “A” qualities the team has right now. Getting Hanrahan in June will be huge and Robbie Ray could end up in the pen down the stretch.
Detroit is faster on the base paths, more sound in the back of the bullpen and seems to be even more confident than they were the majority of the season last year. Some of that is the infusion of energy from Brad Ausmus, even more is that this team simply has more synergy then they did last year. Ian Kinsler has been spectacular and seamlessly has transitioned into being a Tiger. Having a proven closer in Joe Nathan has been huge for the club, and V-Mart has been simply sensational. Youngster Nick Castellanos is showing more and more that he is absolutely ready for prime time. I believe he will be in the top three discussion for Rookie of the Year at worst.
The Tigers are also pulling away from the rest of the AL Central much quicker and with more ease than the last two seasons. The competition for the division crown might be at its lowest in any of the last three years the Tigers have won the Central. Detroit’s plus 40 run differential, third best in MLB, is another of many telling stats so far this year that show why they are truly built to win a title.
The rotation, even with the Sanchez injury , is one of if not the best in MLB. Rick Porcello at 6-1, JV and Max have been lights out as usual, and Drew Smyly has gotten past the early bumps and bruises. What cost the Tigers so many times over the past several years seems to be their strengths this season. Last nights epic comeback seems like it will be just one of many this season for a team that seems as poised as ever to finally win it all for the first time in over 30 years.
The best player in baseball showing one of the many, but main reasons why the Tigers will never be out of a game this year:
BTW Austin Jackson giving Miguel Cabrera the “Are You Kidding Me” stare down was absolutely classic: