Don’t expect the same magic from 2006: Tigers exchange

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By Dave Boucher and H. Jose Bosch

[Editor’s note: This exchange began shortly after Detroit took two out of three in Los Angeles and before the Tigers pooped themselves in Kansas City. Some of the comments have been altered to be more timely.]

HJB-Just when Tiger fans were biting their nails over Detroit’s awful road record, they took two out of three from the Angels followed by a series split with the Tampa Bay Rays. Then Detroit didn’t look back and began September with a six game winning streak. After sweeping the Rays and being swept by the Royals, the Tigers have three road series left, all within the division. Can they go over .500 on the road in September and will it be necessary to win the division?

DB-Not only will Detroit go over .500 on the road for the rest of the season, they should take almost every series they play away from Comerica. Besides the next road trip to Tampa Bay, they get the Royals, Twins, Indians and Sox. I don’t even need to address the Royals series, and the Sox have more than struggled over the last couple of weeks. The Indians are 4-12 against the Tigers for the season; that leaves the Twins. They’re the only team that has enough talent to make the chase for the division tight. That doesn’t mean they will though: they have practically the same schedule as Detroit, with less offense and even shakier pitching. The two remaining series between the teams will be the deciding factor for the A.L. Central race. Look for the Twins to make up a little ground, but to fall short as Detroit stays at the top in September.
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HJB- One trend I’ve noticed the last month of the season is that Edwin Jackson hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was through most of the year. Since the beginning of August opposing hitters are hitting .291 against him and his ERA was 4.83. Granted his record during that time was 5-3, so he’s giving the team a chance to win every time he goes out there. My next question is this: Will this be acceptable in the playoffs where runs are usually at a premium?

DB-No, Jackson is definitely going to need to reacquaint himself with control if the Tigers want to advance into the playoffs. After the abysmal series against the Royals though, it brings up two new questions for me: When we need to go to the bullpen in the sixth inning, who do we turn to? Zach Minor obviously can’t handle the pressure, and the rest of the relief has shown problems as well. Do we drop one of the starters into the pen once the playoffs begin. Along those lines, what teams in the playoffs do you see Detroit succeeding against, and which present problems? Other than the Yankees, of
course…

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HJB-All the Tigers need in the postseason pitching wise is Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, Jarrod Washburn and Rick Porcello in that order. Leyland might even get crazy and just rotate three pitchers. Personally, I think that’s Detroit’s best chance at winning in the post season. As for opponent, Detroit really doesn’t match up well with anyone on paper. They’ll probably play the Yankees and what can I say: on paper, Detroit is screwed. New York has a stronger lineup and a stronger pitching staff. Now, in 2006 the Yankees were heavily favored and still lost. But this Tiger team is much worse than the 2006 team. That team was really good but had a terrible second half of the year. This team is just mediocre.

What do you think Dave?

DB-I think you’re exactly right with the Tigers rotation. The pitching staff is key to any team advancing in the playoffs, but Detroit needs absolutely stellar performances from their aces to contend. I would even consider moving Porcello to the bullpen and working with a three man rotation. That way you could bring the rookie or Nate Robertson in as great relief after getting six or seven innings from your best hurlers.

We really, really need some offense as well. I think the pitchers will come out and play, but if guys like Inge, Cabrera and Magglio don’t swing the bat, they have absolutely no chance. When it comes down to it, I would love to see these guys belting balls into the bleachers as the D-Town cats proceed to the series. But it just won’t happen. They need the perfect storm of production from every on the team to succeed, and they still might not be able to make it by the Yankees. The sad and sorry truth: the Bronx Bombers may just be too good.

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