The Tigers are starting to perk up. Well, the pitching anyway. Maybe getting out of the Midwest will help the bats perk up, too.
The pitching is coming together. Remember when everyone was freaking out about the starting pitching? Now, the Tigers have five consecutive games with quality starts from their pitchers. Opposing teams scored 14 runs across the five games. The streak began with the performance of Rick Porcello, who held the Royals to three runs in eight innings on May 1. On Sunday, he limited the White Sox to one run in 6 1/3 innings. Fox Sports Detroit analyst Rod Allen credited a tweak to Porcello's mechanics, noting that he puts his hands over his head now. Max Scherzer also threw his best game of the season on Saturday, a seven-inning, one-run, nine-strikeout affair. Fixing a flaw in the mechanics gets the credit there, too. If those two pitchers can hold their gains, while Doug Fister returns to the rotation and Justin Verlander and Drew Smyly pitch to expectations, the pitching worries could be a thing of the past. How likely is that? Probably not real likely. This is baseball after all. With 25 moving parts, something's always broken, something's always getting fixed and something's always running well. Seldom does everything go right. But the Tigers hope that it does.
Jose Valverde is stumbling. Last season, Valverde went 49-for-49 in save opportunities during the regular season. Not every save was pretty, but every game was saved. This season he's already blown two saves in seven opportunities. He's walked batters in five of the last eight appearances. He's given up hits in four of the past four. He's not striking out people at the same rate as in seasons past, while walking even more. This got me wondering: Have there been other stretches like that for Papa Grande? The short answer is, of course. Last May, during an eight game stretch, he walked five and allowed six hits and had a 6.14 ERA to show for it. He was 5-for-5 in those save opportunities, due mainly to the fact he had more wriggle room. During an eight-game stretch in July, he allowed 10 hits and eight walks, leading to a non-surprising 7.36 ERA. Yet he made five saves. So it's probably not time to count Jose Valverde out, yet. He's been known to turn things around.
Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila are coming out of their woes. At the end of April, Peralta had a .236 average, .273 on-base percentage and .347 slugging average. For the month of May, he's batting .357 with .438 OBP and .571 slugging. He had the game-winning home run Friday. Avila had a .220 average with .303 OBP and .424 slugging at the end of April. He's started May off with a .538 average and .923 slugging. Once both players find their happy place and start hitting like they're supposed to, the runs column will begin to look better for the Tigers. Maybe they can tell Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn what their secret is.
Nick Castellanos is silly. The Tigers' 20-year-old third-base prospect leads (as of Sunday) the Florida State League with a .414 batting average and .460 on-base percentage. He's second in slugging at .577. He also has 21 RBI and 2 HR. This has caused a lot of people to lose their minds -- not in a good way. It's too early to start talking about promoting him to Detroit. I know there aren't a lot of people out there who believe that should happen, but I just wanted to say it, anyway. He is starting just his second full season of professional ball. Give him time to develop. There's absolutely no reason to be rushing him. None. He'll arrive in due time, don't you worry.