Detroit Tigers Schedule Becomes More Favorable

The Detroit Tigers start to the season has been very average. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals have been the toast of the division, but that is obviously nothing more than fool’s gold.

The former would also lead the East and the West in the American League. Tell me that is going to last!

The best case scenario is that the success of the Royals and Indians sells some tickets now for future dates on the false premise that those games will mean something to those teams in their respective cities. At least the Tigers aren’t performing the way that the Twins and White Sox are.

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Detroit Tigers: what a difference a week makes

I think Leyland has a point this time, Mr. Joyce

Outfielder Brennan Boesch has been a ray of light for the Detroit Tigers. His consistency and high batting average have been constants for the Tigers throughout this season. The starting pitching struggled mightily during the first week, but that has also rebounded during the second. Miguel Cabrera’s numbers will be there at the end of the year and with no club ion a scorching pace thus far in the American League Central Division, all of this adds up favorably for Mo Town.

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Injury-Ravaged Tigers Lineup Resembling Infamous ’03 Tigers

Last week the Detroit Tigers trotted out a lineup that was so unimpressive, it resembled the infamous 2003 Detroit Tigers. You know the team that set an American League record for losses in a season, and finished just one win ahead of the 1962 New York Mets, the most abominable in MLB history. So here’s the lineup from that day, juxtaposed against the lineup from that day seven years ago.

You tell me who would win.

By H. Jose Bosch

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Detroit Tigers need to think about the future

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By H. Jose Bosch

Detroit, who for the last few seasons has been among the ranks of the highest payroll teams in baseball, may not be at the top following this off season. With news breaking that the Tigers are looking to trade All-star Edwin Jackson, it appears the economy is finally catching up.

When I first heard the news, I was very upset. As disappointing as the season was, I was optimistic about 2010 and a starting rotation anchored by Justin Verlander, Jackson and Porcello as the Nos. 1-3 pitchers. But according to this Foxports.com report (the outlet that initially broke the story) the move is probably an economic one more than anything else.

The thinking goes that if the Tigers want to sign top free agents, it needs to free up some space because the payroll can’t get any bigger. (So in reality they might still have a high payroll, but now they’ll have to be signing players and evaluating talent with a small payroll mentality).

But after thinking about it I realized that this is a huge make or break off season for Detroit in terms of the team’s the future. If the Tigers are at a disadvantage in terms of building a winner now, why sacrifice the future?

Technically the Tigers were one game off from being a playoff team, but let’s be honest; they were much worse than that. This off season could be the Tigers’ chance to stock up for the future with draft picks and prospects for some of their arbitration-eligible players.

This year’s free agent crop isn’t strong enough for the Tigers to build a contender through free agency and the Tigers don’t have enough talent internally, either.

Plus Detroit is freed from three debilitating contracts after next season: Jeremy Bonderman (4 years/ $38 million), Dontrelle Willis (3 years/ $29 million) and Nate Robertson (3 years/$21.25 million) are free agents in 2010. Add Brandon Inge (4 years/$24 million) and the Tigers could have a lot of money to play with after the 2010 season.

So, will 2010 hurt? You bet. But since the Tigers are better set up for future success rather than immediate success, I don’t think fans should worry too much about the loss of a Jackson or Placido Polanco.

Later today I’m going to start breaking down what roster moves Detroit should make with it’s free agents and arbitration-eligible players.

Read more about the Tigers at Jose’s blog, Michigan and Trumbull
Photo courtesy of powerbooktrance/Flickr

White Sox Factor Loom Large in Twins\Tigers Play-in Game

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By Soxman

Tip your cap to those scrappy Twins.  They became your 2009 AL Central Division Champions in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever watched.  12 innings of exciting action, where neither team would go quietly into that good night. As I watched the game closely, I could not help but marvel at how much of an impact the Chicago White Sox had on this game. Confused?  Well then, read this break:

1.    The Chicago White Sox won four of the last six games against the Tigers to essentially force them into the tie-breaking game.

2.    Miguel Cabrera, who was almost traded to the White Sox in 2008 for Josh Fields, Aaron Poreda and others, homered in the game.  He also played on the Marlins when Ozzie Guillen was the third base coach.

3.    Former White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez, singled in Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, whose favorite team growing up was the Sox.  Ordonez also hit a crucial HR in the 8th to tie the game.

4.    Orlando Cabrera, a member of the 2008 AL Central Champion White Sox, give the Twins the lead in the 7th.

5.    Matt Guerrier, a 10th round draft pick by the White Sox in 1999, nearly blew the lead by walking two and giving up a run in two thirds of an inning.

6.    Jon Rauch, a 3rd round pick by the White Sox in 1999 pitched two thirds of a scoreless inning in the 7th.

This Twins team also has to draw some comparison to the 2005 Chicago White Sox as they are a team built primarily on speed and defense, and relying on smart baseball to win.  They also lost one of their best power hitters for the season in Justin Morneau, who interestingly enough was passed over by the White Sox in 1999, in favor of Jon Rauch.  In 2005, we lost Frank Thomas to a broken foot and were forced to use Carl Everett in the DH spot.

In 2005, we had to rely on a “rookie” push down the stretch to fill critical holes.  Bobby Jenks stepped in at closer for the injured Dustin Hermanson, just as Brian Duensing filled in as a starter in place of probable staff ace, Kevin Slowey, who broke his wrist earlier in the season.

Regardless of your hatred for the Twins as a Sox fan, you have to respect what they have accomplished, given their injuries and payroll. They now face their biggest test, defining the biblical identity of David when they face the Goliath New York Yankees.  On paper, this should be a fairly easy victory for the Yankees right?sox-harmony

After all, the Twinkies haven’t won a game in New York in over two years.  They are 0-7 in the regular season against the Yankees as well.  For those who claim that the post season is a brand new season, history is not on your side.  In two previous playoff series against the Yankees, the Twins are 0-2.

So why not be optimistic about beating a team whose collective salaries are more than triple your payroll?  How about the phrase “Fear most those who have nothing to lose?”

You could also argue that momentum is on the Twinkies side.  Despite the Yankees having the best regular season record in baseball, the Twins ended the season, 17-4- acting as baseball’s hottest team when it mattered most. Four intensely emotional games of baseball, 7 if you count their last series against the Tigers, extra innings, a tired bullpen, and a 3:00 a.m. touchdown in New York to play a 5:00 p.m. game: the Twins would not have it any other way.

If ever there were an underdog to love, it is the 2009 Twins.  My competitive hatred will resume after this season ends.

Prepare for a postseason without Detroit

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By H. Jose Bosch

I went into last night’s game fully expecting the Tigers to lose. There was no way, I reasoned, that Detroit could go to Minnesota, against a red-hot team and win this one-game playoff; especially with rookie Rick Porcello on the mound.

It was a self-defense mechanism. Emotionally, it was better for me to be pleasantly surprised than terribly disappointed.

But any sports fan can tell you that no matter how low you set your expectations, when the game begins that bar is still as high as the clouds. And after the Tigers took an early 3-0 lead, I was walking on cloud nine, 10 11 and 12.

Then Porcello’s error allowed one run to come in. Jason Kubel hit a 2-out homerun to close the deficit to one. And Orlando Cabrera, arguably the Twins’ best trade deadline move in ten years, slaps a two-run homerun off my least favorites Tiger.

4-3 Twins and I’m about ready to swear off religion forever because no caring God would have the heart to crush my excitement and enthusiasm so swiftly.

A Magglio Ordonez 8th-inning homerun restored my belief that this crazy world we live in isn’t, in fact, anarchy but that some forces of good exist out there.

And after Brandon Inge gave Detroit a 5-4 lead in the 10th I was ready to believe in just about anything. The moon landings were staged, there was a shooter in the grassy knoll and Bobby Thompson knew exactly what pitch Ralph Branca was going to throw him.

Of course this game was in Minnesota, Fernando Rodney was pitching for a second inning and Ryan Rabun isn’t Willie Mays. I don’t even want to talk about the rest of the game from that point because women and children do occasionally read this blog and I’d probably give the Supreme Court reason to believe free speech isn’t a great idea for everyone.

sad_tiger1Let’s just say once Carlos Gomez crossed home for the game-winning run I was released from a psychological torture that made the Saw movies look like double dutch. All of it left me depressed for investing so much energy into a single game that really should’ve never happened.

With an entire off season staring me in the face I have plenty of time to wonder what went wrong on Tuesday night. Did Leyland take Porcello out too early? Did he leave Fernando Rodney out too long? Why did Ryan Raburn drive for that ball in the 11th? How did that umpire miss the hit by pitch with the bases load in the 12th?

Plenty of fans will wonder that this morning and for the next few weeks. I’m just going to drop it all because debating those points and more won’t put the Tigers into the playoffs.

What makes this loss so tough is that now I have no reason to gnash my teeth, toss my pillows or throw the remote control into the ground. No reason to emotionally wreck myself or walk around my house with unadulterated rage built up inside of me for a purposeless child’s game. No reason to spend three hours watching my favorite sport and then feel like absolute crap. All because Detroit won’t be in the playoffs.

And that just sucks.

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Twins vs. Tigers: Who Do Sox Fans Cheer For?

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By Soxman

Two teams, one game, and the winner moves on to the postseason while the loser goes home for the winter.  Sox fans know this scenario oh too well as we needed the famous “blackout play-in game” in 2009 to earn our central division crown.  For Twins fans, it is as Yogi Berra says, “dejvu all over again!” So as the Twin vs. Tigers game on Tuesday approaches, several perplexing questions are likely peculating through White Sox fans minds:twins_logo

Who do I cheer for?  Is it wrong be interested in this game at all?  To pick a side?  Can I cheer for my enemy and still be called a Sox fan? As Hawk Harrelson would say:  “YEEEEAAASSS.” Before you read my pick, understand a couple of  things.

First, while I’m a diehard Sox fan, I’m also a fanatic of the game of baseball…period.  A tiebreaker represents all that is exciting in this game, even if a team only needs 87 wins to reach the postseason. Second, there is no right or wrong answer in this equation.  That’s the beauty of the game. Let’s examine some points of debate:

The “ex” Sox factor
The Tigers have Magglio Ordonez and former coaches Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont. “O wee OOOO…MAGGGLIO,” left Chicago via the Scott Boras express, and the perception among Sox fans was he used the Sox to get a better offer from the Tigers.  It was the first shot heard ’round the Cell, that the Sox would refuse to play ball with Boras. The Twins have Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Orlando Cabrera and World Series Hero Joe Crede. Crede was a “Don’t Stop Believin” voice of the 2005 World Champion Sox.
Advantage:  Twins.


The Underdog Factor

Often synonymous with payroll, this year there is even more at play.  The Twins will be without their best power hitter Justin Morneau, and defensive stalwart Joe Crede, who both are out with back issues. The Tigers are without Dontrelle Willis and Joel Zumaya. Team Payroll?  Detroit has the 5th highest in baseball at just over $115 million. The Twins rank 24th at about $65.3 million. Advantage:  Twins

The Economy
With the flaying automobile industry and a depressed economy, Detroit has been referred to as a city “that needs the play-offs” as an emotional shot in the arm. Opponents argue, the Detroit Red Wings domination should be plenty.  People then counter argue with the Detroit Lions. Seriously though, according to a 2007 census study, Michigan has a 12% poverty rate, while Minnesota has an 8.1% poverty rate. Advantage:  Tigers

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Always the Bridesmaid Factor

While the Tigers won the AL Pennant in 2006, they did it as the AL wildcard team and have never won an A.L. Central Title since the 1998 realignment. The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, their 4th in team history. The Twins have won the AL Central 4 times since 1998. They last won the World Series in 1991, their third in team history. Advantage: Twins by numbers, Tigers by Underdog Factor.

The Sox Hate Factor
This is pure opinion here.  I hate the Metrodome as a Sox fan because of our record there.  I hate the Metrodome as a baseball fan, as it’s a horrible place to watch a game.  I respect the Metrodome as an outsider because of the electric advantage it gives the Twins.
Detroit Tiger fans invade U.S. Cellular Field at a far greater rate and with a higher rate of irritability than Twins fans do.
Advantage: Tie

For me, its always about the underdog, or the little guy.  I’ve got to go with the Minnesota Twins.  With a total team salary that is 45% less than their opponent, and two of their better players injured, it’s amazing they made it this far.  Say it is so Joe…Crede that is. So for now….big gulp….larger swallow…Go Twins!  At least it’s not the Cubs.

And as Sox fans we can always say that we helped the Twins get there by taking 4 of 6 from the Tigers to end the season. To Twins Fan and Sportsbank Writer Peter Christian, remember who said your team would be here in August?  You can remember me in the Call Outs. Now that all the information has been presented to you, who are you cheering for Sox fans?

Cabrera’s off field troubles present problems for Tigers, fans

Blue Jays Tigers Baseball

By H. Jose Bosch

Now that Cabrera’s issues have been aired (and the audio of the 911 call released) the issue at hand is this: How should the Tigers respond because they certainly can’t ignore it at this point. It’s been reported on by all kinds of media.

Here are several solutions:

Dave Dombrowski or Jim Leyland address it briefly and swiftly, spit out the standard “we’ll discuss it in the off season” response and then prepare for the one-game playoff.

Positive: For the team’s sake, it keeps focus on the game, which is the most important thing right now. This is their job, ladies and gents; it should be the most important thing in the world.

Negative: The rest of the world really doesn’t take sports seriously and doesn’t like spousal abuse (for good reason). A response like this will really piss off people.

Release a statement “written” by Cabrera apologizing for his transgressions.

Positive: While some wouldn’t be satisfied, the Tigers can cling to the idea that Cabrera took responsibility and they can get back to the task at hand — beating the Twins.

Negative:Very similar to above. There will be people not satisfied with the response because it won’t seem genuine.

Cabrera himself addresses the media and gives an apology.

Positive: Once again, not everyone would be satisfied but this would be a step more than just releasing a statement. It would also take his teammates off the hook from having to answer a bunch of questions.

Negative: Depending on how he looks when he apologizes, it could be worse than releasing a statement. Ask Michael Vick.

Suspend Cabrera for the game.

Positive: No one could claim the Tigers weren’t taking this seriously.

Negative: The implications for the game are obvious. Detroit would be losing its best hitter.

Final say: I’d be shocked if Detroit suspended Cabrera for the game. Let’s remember this: He’s an adult who was drinking legally; he didn’t drive home and no charges have actually been pressed. That doesn’t mean it’s an issue that should be ignored but considering the gravity of this game, Cabrera’s wife would’ve had to press charges or have been hospitalized for something to happen.

Sad, but true.

As a fan, it’s a little tricky because our reaction to the incident bears no consequences on the team. So, should we root for Cabrera? Support him on and off the field? Or should he be dead to us for “letting his team down.”

Unlike Detroit Free Press columnist Mark Rosenberg, I’m not going to claim that Cabrera has a problem and that he’s evil. (OK, he never called Cabrera evil, but his tone makes it seem Cabrera is the only one to blame for the Tigers’ woes.)

I want to see proof. If he’s out till 6 a.m. after every game, drinking, then he has a problem. But I know many players go out to unwind after games and usually aren’t out that late every night. And unless someone gives me proof, I’m going to assume this is the first time Cabrera has gone this nuts with alcohol.

This could be proof of the season’s pressure getting to Cabrera.

I mean, he’s 26, three years older than me. I get stressed writing blog posts; I can’t imagine being the star player on a Major League team in the middle of an epic pennant race collapse.

Does it excuse him? Absolutely not, at least not the domestic abuse part. But if everything was the same and he didn’t beat his wife, I’d have no problems with it. I don’t even care that he drank with White Sox players.

I don’t care how much money he’s making, I don’t care how much the Tigers gave up for him. He’s been the team’s best player more often than not and as long as he produces he can stick firecrackers up his butt and light them a la the show Jackass for all I care.

His 0-11 slump against the White Sox probably wasn’t caused by any drinking. If anything, he’s probably letting himself get loose because he’s struggling at the plate.

The Tigers’ collapse should come as no surprise

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By H. Jose Bosch

Today I have a splitting headache and I’m not sure if it’s because I might have swine flu or because the Tigers epically failed to seal the division championship over the weekend.

To be honest, I’d rather have the swine flu.

The Tigers 5-3 win yesterday afternoon, a win that forced a one-game playoff tomorrow evening, only proves the point that no Tigers fan should be surprised about this late season collapse.

Detroit has been the most consistent, inconsistent team in baseball all season long. One day they play like the hapless Tigers of the mid to late 90s and the next day they look good enough to beat the Yankees.

What hurt the Tigers is that they never embraced their true identity. Not that a team needs a true identity to play well, but when a team has a certain identity, it’s built in a certain way which helps the team play more consistently.

The Twins have had the same identity for years. They’re low budget, concentrate on developing players, particularly pitchers, and they play small ball well. The team is built for this. They have players up and down the roster who have come up through the farm system. They have players who can make productive outs and they’ve always been amongst the best in the league in pitching.

They’re not always pretty during the regular season, but they’re always good enough to be dangerous in August and September.

Add all those together and it’s no wonder the Twins clawed their way back to force a playoff.

Detroit, on the other hand, hasn’t fully embraced its new identity. Being a slugging team didn’t work last season, so management decided to focus on pitching and defense—a great idea considering the team plays in Comerica Park. Unfortunately the line up still features elements of a slugging team, despite improvements in small ball categories, like sacrifice flies and sacrifice hits.

Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco had off years, hurting the production of Miguel Cabrera, albeit not by much. Magglio Ordonez had zero pop in the bat most of the year as did Carlos Guillen, when he played. Marcus Thames, who was supposed to be a great power hitter, had an awful season and after a fast start, Brandon Inge fell back down to his base level, which is a terrible hitter.

A lot of these guys aren’t small ball type players but sluggers, only none of them slugged. So when the Tigers actually did try to play small ball — 92 sacrifice at bats compared to 74 last season — they couldn’t score runs.
tigger46sad
I think part of that comes from Detroit still relying on the big inning rather than chipping away at the opposing pitcher with a few runs sprinkled throughout the game. This type of mentality essentially breeds hot and cold hitting which, in turn, produces a hot and cold team.

Put that up against a hot team like Minnesota and it’s a recipe for disaster.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

The exchange: Tigers-Twins showdown

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By H. Jose Bosch and Andy Weise

The Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins are the only real reason to keep track of baseball this week. For those of you lost in college football and the NFL, the Tigers are just two games ahead of the Twins and tonight is the first game of a big four-game series between the two clubs.

Twins fan Andy Weise and I exchanged e-mails about tonight’s game and the series.

HJB-My first question to Andy is why, WHY! do the Twins always come back despite being so mediocre during the regular season? I mean, off the top of my head I can remember just one season in recent memory where the Twins were clear cut better than everyone else. The rest of the time they just seem to stew in crappiness with everyone else until the last few weeks of the season. (I ask this because I respect the hell out of them for balling up late in the season, something the Tigers have had trouble doing.)

AW-Well it’s nice to see the respect. I don’t have the hatred for the Tigers like I have had for Cleveland and Chicago White Sox but I was disappointed last year in the Tigers vs. White Sox game that if Detroit one, the Twins would win the division and head to the playoffs.
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The Twins overachieved last year, in my opinion. They had an extremely young staff that did fairly well and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer finishing in the top five for the MVP race proved that they have the star power to carry this team. It’s clear though that inconsistency in pitching has hurt them a lot this year. Guys like Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano have been big time busts, they lost Kevin Slowey to injury and they’ve had to rely on guys like Carl Pavano down the stretch, not ideal!

What about the Tigers? Where do you see the problems on your team that have put them in a position where they could lose the division this week? They seem to have some big names in pitching and hitting but why haven’t they closed this thing out yet?

HJB-Those big name pitchers and hitters haven’t gotten the job done consistently. Edwin Jackson, who was a pleasant surprise of a Cy Young candidate, has gone 6-5 with a 4.80 ERA in the last two months of the season. Magglio Ordonez, who can reach base, just doesn’t have pop in his bat. Curtis Granderson is an electric player, but this season he’s been an awful lead off hitter. And the bullpen has chosen the final weeks of the season to pitch like we all thought they were: mediocre.

Don’t even get me started on the Jarrod Washburn deal. I would make that trade again but I want to just take a golf club to that freaking knee and put it out of commission for good.

And don’t be down on Pavano. He’s been a Tiger killer of late. Speaking of pitchers, look at the probable match ups:

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) v. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) v. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) v. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) v. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)

There are only two pitchers on this list I’d trust (Verlander and Pavano since he’s been a Tiger killer of late). Everyone else would make me nervous. Who do you like in this series?

I’m going to be optimistic and say Porcello, Verlander and Robertson can pull off wins. What’s your perspective?rick-porcello-kevin-youkilis

AW-I thought the Tigers getting Edwin Jackson was going to be a huge move. He looked good with Tampa Bay last year and I always see the Tigers making moves I wish the Twins would make. And you’re right on Pavano; he’s given the Twins a boost that they really needed with more than half of their rotation not helping this year.

As I look at the match ups for this series, tonight’s game features two guys who really need to step it up and show their team’s they can pitch in a big game setting. I do think Porcello is the better pitcher of the two right now but Blackburn has a little more experience. Tuesday’s match up with Duensing and Verlander will probably feature the best match up of them all. If the Twins can keep it close and get to the bullpen once Verlander goes out, I think Minnesota can come away with that one. Do you like Bonine against Pavano? I don’t know much about your guy but that might be a slugfest of a game. And finally, Baker versus Robertson is a good one given that the Twins haven’t hit good against lefties. Baker needs to rebound after his loss to the Tigers a couple Sunday’s ago and I think he can do that.

Offensively, Michael Cuddyer has to keep playing the way he has been playing. The Twins need production from some the lower part of the order too. Nick Punto looks like he’s finally getting some good at-bats and Jose Morales has proved that his bat can help too.

I think the Twins have to win 3/4, they can afford to lose one but not two. I think game two and four will be the ones where the Tigers are favored to win.

HJB-I’m conceding the Bonine game right now. I have zero confidence in him. I agree with your assessments of the other games, which worries and excites me at the same time. As a Tigers fan I’m going to be a nervous wreck but as a baseball fan I know these are going to be some epic games and a nice appetizer for the postseason, especially for the guy whose team makes the playoff (*cough*me*cough*).

verlanderThe only thing that worries me about the Verlander game is he has a tendency to give up a big inning late in his start and as you alluded to earlier, the Twins bullpen is pretty solid Detroit’s has shown flashes of brilliance but I’d rather spot them a 2-3 run lead rather than go into the bullpen with a tied game or (eeek) trailing.

Everyone in the lineup is a tough out; they just haven’t done it on a consistent basis (except for Miguel Cabrera). If there was ever a time for the line up to be clicking on all cylinders, it’s during this series. Some of the changes the Tigers made, like getting Adam Everett and Gerald Laird, were done because we didn’t need more sluggers and we needed a better defense in tight games. Now we’ll see how the moves pay off. These are going to be tight games and I don’t think Detroit can expect to slug its way into the postseason during this series.

Last question Andy. If you asked me the one thing I NEED to see in this series to make me feel good it’s a solid bullpen. As I said, I think these games are going to be close and Detroit will need the ‘pen more than ever (especially when Bonine and Robertson start). What’s the ONE aspect of the Twins’ game you want to see at its best during this series?

AW-One? Haha, I don’t know if there is just one. Off the top of my head I have two right now — starting pitchers cannot afford to let the game get out of reach early. If the starting pitchers for the Twins struggle early and let the game get out of hand, I’m going to worry. I’ve seen plenty of comebacks lately and some big innings from the Twins but I just don’t think they have the firepower to do that too much more. The pitchers have to keep the games close or protect leads if we have them.

The other thing like I pointed out earlier — Twins need to get offensive production from the infielders outside of Cuddyer. Punto, Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher and Alexi Casilla, whoever they send out from all these guys, they have to produce some offense. It hurts the Twins big time if they can’t get some guys on base for the top of the order to hit home.

It’s nice that the race is only two games right now and the teams have four games head-to-head. You can’t ask for anything more exciting at this point. Overall both teams have been extremely inconsistent and probably do not deserve to make the playoffs but rules are rules, the division winner will make the playoffs and head to New York to face the Yankees when all is said and done.

There will be a live blog of tonight’s game at Michigan and Trumbull. Check it out!

Tigers must buck expectations to sew this pennant up

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By H. Jose Bosch

Thank you Ozzie Guillen.

Thanks to your tirade, not only are we blessed with another great sound bite, but you also fired up your club enough to win the series finale and keep the American League Central pennant “race” alive.

And let’s be honest, this isn’t a race as much as it’s two teams trying desperately to be the first one to hit the golf course this offseason. During this last month of the season I can’t help but think of the South Park episode — The Losing Edge — where South Park and all the other Little League teams try to lose so that they can enjoy their summer.
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Are the Tigers so sick of playing that they’d rather lose on purpose for comfy couches and college football? Well, no, obviously. They’re trying, despite what their results show. But trying doesn’t mean anything if there is 1 in the loss column at the end of the day. (I’ve filled my hokey coach speak quote of the day)

Detroit now has seven straight home games to end the season, the next four against the Twins, who stand just two tiny games back behind Detroit.

The good news is that the Tigers have played well at home all season. And three wins during the series would clinch the division title. The bad news is we’re relying on the Tigers to do just that, win when it matters and put this title away.

Nothing from this season has shown me Detroit can put this division away during this one series. Not that the Tigers don’t have the talent to win. But if Detroit sews this pennant up, it probably won’t be until the last two days of the season.

My heart says the Tigers will take the first three games and the rest won’t matter because they’ll be bathing in Champaign. But my head says Detroit will go 2-2 during this series and will need to clinch against Chicago on the weekend.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

A marriage between Tigers and destiny not too far off

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By H. Jose Bosch

Last night, the Tigers did something they’ve struggled to do in the last month of the season: beat an inferior opponent to a pulp. And this three-game winning streak has given me a little extra hop in my step.

Not so much because the Twins’ 2-1/2 game deficit is now insurmountable. But because in the last three games the Tigers’ strengths — the only way they can win down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs — were showcased in those three wins.

For the Detroit to be successful in the stretch run, they have to follow the standard advice for every wedding planner in America: Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue.

Something old:
The best part about last night’s win might be Carlos Guillen’s home run from the right side of the plate (the home run from the left side wasn’t too bad either.) Not that Guillen is going to be an Albert Pujols from the right side. And Detroit isn’t in dire need of pop from the right side since Miguel Cabrera has that covered.

Tigers Indians BaseballBut just the fact that Guillen’s right shoulder is healthy enough for him to actually be a switch hitter is a great sign for the Tigers. The healthier he is, the more potent Detroit’s pretty weak lineup becomes. He, like Magglio Ordonez, may not have as much pop in the bat but they’re veterans who know how to get on base. And late in the season, base runners are always at a premium.

Other Tiger vets — Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Nate Robertson among others — will play a major role and all of them have been having good, not great, years. Well, maybe not Robertson, but his win Sunday was huge.

Something new:
Rick Porcello shined last night and continues making a case for American League rookie of the year. His success down the stretch, and whether or not he can hold up as his innings keep piling on, could make or break Detroit in the end. He’s essentially the 2006 Justin Verlander of this team.

Another player who could make an impact is Alex Avila. He hasn’t made much noise since he roared onto the scene in mid-August but his left-handed bat is a tactical tool for Leyland in late-game situations.

Something borrowed:
Edwin Jackson, Adam Everett and Gerald Laird are the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Everett and Laird contributed to the Tigers’ offensive impotence but greatly improved their defense. Jackson has helped compensate for the lack of offense by being an awesome pitcher.

Jackson had struggled in September, but his seven-inning gem on Tuesday is a small return to form. Detroit needs his arm as much as Verlander’s. edwin_jackson

Something blue:
Yeah, nothing really works here, so I’ll use this as an excuse to talk about the bullpen, who was clutch in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Twins. Verlander and Jackson can eat up innings in the final two weeks, but whoever pitches in slots three through five will need help. Brandon Lyon, Bobby Seay and Rodney might actually be feared relievers this October.

Just like any wedding, I just want this season to end so I can get to the free bar and celebrate. But before that happens Detroit should make sure not to trip on its way down the proverbial aisle.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.