All season it’s been the same old story with the Detroit Tigers. The team that really isn’t that far removed from being a World Series contender year in and year out has continued to hold fans hostage all season. I have warned fans to “Stay Away!!!” “Beware!” “Don’t Take This Team Seriously!!”. But here we are, preparing for the September stretch run, and Detroit Tigers have hemmed and hawed their way into the playoff picture. They are currently 7 back of division-leading Cleveland and 2.5 behind the Orioles, who occupy the second wild card spot.
As the regular season hits it’s final month, here are some things to keep in mind as your Tigers do in fact try to make the postseason (I think they’re trying — hard to tell most nights).
The Tigers will get healthy.
Injuries have reared their ugly head to key pieces of this lineup at the most inopportune times in 2016. But they have already gotten JD Martinez back and Miguel Cabrera, fortunately, didn’t miss any games to his biceps strain last week. Jose Iglesias, Cameron Maybin, and Nick Castellanos all appear to be on track to return to the club by early September at the latest. When this lineup is back fully intact, the potential is there — as it’s been all season — for them to score runs and alleviate some of the pressure from their pitching staff.
The starting pitching has righted itself.
Justin Verlander is back to being about as good as anyone could have realistically expected. He’s not going to be an MVP candidate and he’s not going to dominate in quite the same manner he did circa 2011. But no one’s asking him to. He just needs to be what he’s been this whole season — a very good to great pitcher. Rookie Michael Fulmer has been outstanding since being called up earlier this year and should garner a lot of Rookie of the Year consideration in the AL. Add to the fact that Matt Boyd has looked very good over his last 8 starts and Anibal Sanchez seems to have exorcised his demons that plagued him most of the season, it appears the Tigers have a pretty solid starting rotation.
Someone is going to have to be a clutch performer in a lot of games in the final month of the season, whether it’s a player who has performed in that role before — Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, JD Martinez — or whether it’s a player who needs to, like Justin Upton. Or a manager.
Maybe Justin Upton read my mind before Sunday afternoon’s tilt with the Red Sox. The $132 million dollar man blasted two 3-run homers in the 10-5 win in the series finale, to split with Boston. If Upton can keep this up to a degree and others can chime in too with some timely hitting and clutch play, the Tigers might be able to put it all together and squeak into the playoffs. This includes the guys in this lineup who we expect big things from and have gotten big things from over the years. But it also includes guys, like Upton, who could really do themselves a favor by coming through big for this club down the stretch. Upton’s at the top of that list, but manager Brad Ausmus has to be number two. His in-game decision-making has been questionable at best all season long, and few expect him to survive the winter if the team misses the postseason for a second consecutive year. But a month of great managing (whatever that looks like), could be what gives this club the boost it needs.
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