Monday Morning Manager is a series that Greg Eno has been writing since 2009 on his personal blogs. It's a look back at the previous Tigers week and a look ahead at the current week. This season, he brings the series, featuring his alter ego "MMM", to Bless You Boys, every Monday morning.
Last Week: 4-3
This week: at Bal (5/12-14); at Bos (5/16-18)
So, What Happened?
The week started with so much promise: three wins out of the gate against the hapless Houston Astros. But a 1-3 finish, capped by a nasty loss on Mother's Day to the Minnesota Twins, put a damper on things.
The Tigers honored former manager Jim Leyland on Saturday, and the skipper looked dashing, sporting a cool goatee and a sports coat and open-collared shirt. MMM thought he looked like a man who is agreeing with retirement---though Leyland is hardly being a wallflower.
On the field, Miguel Cabrera continued to shake off his April funk. Victor Martinez continued to bash the baseball and the starting pitching continued to vex opposing hitters---though MMM uses "hitters" loosely when referring to the Astros.
Robbie Ray turned in a second consecutive strong start as a fill-in for Anibal Sanchez.
Justin Verlander was a hard-luck loser on Friday, and Max Scherzer was a hard-fought winner on Saturday.
The Tigers announced that left fielder Andy Dirks, recuperating from back surgery, is starting "baseball activities."
Speaking of baseball activities, shall we get started?
Hero of the Week
MMM typically doesn't name the same dude as the Hero two weeks in a row, but Victor Martinez's numbers just won't go away.
Victor had himself a whale of a home stand last week: 9-for-28 with four homers and seven RBI. He slugged .786.
Martinez has an astounding eight home runs and is on pace for a .325/39/108 slash line. The much ballyhooed OPS is at .954. When it comes to DHs, Edgar Martinez, eat your heart out!
Victor just wears pitchers out. He has struck out just five times all year, and it seems like every at-bat goes to a ball-three count.
MMM is reminded of Gary Sheffield when Martinez falls behind, 0-2. Sheffield had an uncanny ability to dig himself out of 0-2 holes and work the count full. That's what V-Mart does on a regular basis.
Goat of the Week
The Tigers were clinging to a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning on Sunday. Two Twins were out, with runners on first and second. Four more outs and a 5-2 week would be in the books.
Then it happened.
Joba Chamberlain had a 3-2 count on Josmil Pinto. The runners were moving as Pinto laced a sharp single to left field.
Rajai Davis nonchalantly tried to backhand the ball, when he had plenty of time to position himself in front.
The baseball caromed off Davis' glove and went all the way to the wall.
Both runners scored. Just like that, the game was tied, 3-3.
The next batter, Eduardo Nunez, singled, but instead of Pinto moving to third base from first, he scored, having advanced to second on the Davis error.
Twins led, 4-3.
Twins won, 4-3.
A mother of a loss on Mother's Day.
Plays like that drive you crazy, especially coming from a veteran who should know better, like Davis.
MMM deemed that play egregious enough to cast Davis as last week's Goat.
MMM knows that Rajai has been mostly splendid this year, getting far more at-bats than projected in light of the back injury to Dirks. But the blunder on Sunday may have outright cost the Tigers a game and it created a totally different complexion on the week.
Under the Microscope
Make it three straight weeks of MMM's Microscope guy getting it done.
Add Robbie Ray's name to the list.
Ray, the 22-year-old rookie lefty acquired in the Doug Fister deal, made two starts last week and in 11.1 innings combined, just one runner crossed the plate.
He got a win and a no-decision.
This week, MMM is putting manager Brad Ausmus under the scope.
The Tigers have a tricky set of road games coming up---in Baltimore and in Boston, the scene of the crime in the 2013 ALCS.
Now that this rash of AL Central games is over (for now), MMM thinks the Tigers' first foray against the East on the road provides Ausmus with some high-pressure games in which to manage.
The O's are in first place and while the Red Sox aren't exactly setting the world on fire, the Tigers historically have performed poorly in Boston, and the hot Orioles (7-3 in last 10) aren't a pushover in their home ballpark.
Mr. Ausmus, welcome to some real baseball---not this pretend, Central Division stuff. The sports talk radio trolls have their cell phones' speed dials set.
Upcoming: Orioles and Red Sox
The Baltimore Orioles are finding out that the disabled list giveth and taketh away.
Wieters' loss will hurt. Not only is he the starter at arguably the most important position, Wieters has produced. He has a .308 BA with 5 HR and 18 RBI. The elbow injury is a major concern. There's talk that Wieters may have to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Meanwhile, big bopper Davis returns, and 3B Manny Machado is back as well after a trip to the DL.
MMM still has nightmares about what Nelson Cruz did to the Tigers in the 2011 ALCS. Cruz is an Oriole now, and he leads the team with 10 HR and 30 RBI.
On the mound, the Orioles have been a little rocky. They rank in the bottom third of MLB in most of the major statistical categories.
Righty Bud Norris, Monday's starter, has the lowest ERA among the Orioles starters at 3.82. The Tigers will also see old nemesis Ubaldo Jimenez, who is shaky at 2-4 with a 4.73 ERA.
OK, Tigers fans, are you ready, emotionally, to see your boys play a game at Fenway Park?
It's been seven months since the Boston Massacre, where the Tigers lost a chance at the AL pennant with a Game 6 loss punctuated by Shane Victorino's grand slam.
If it's any consolation, the Red Sox are finding out almost daily that this isn't 2013 anymore.
MMM uttered it often last year---that the Red Sox were a team sprinkled with magic pixie dust all season. It was almost as if their World Series title was fait accomplit.
Not in 2014.
Boston has been chasing .500 like a rabbit chasing a carrot. They're currently one game over at 19-18, but that includes a pedestrian 10-11 at home.
The usual suspects pace the Red Sox.
SS Xander Bogaerts, the trendy pre-season pick for Rookie of the Year, is doing OK, but not great (.252 BA; .361 OBP).
Starter Jon Lester is an oddity of sorts, as he has decisions in all eight of his starts this year (4-4, 2.75 ERA). The Tigers are likely to see Lester on Saturday. Conversely, Jake Peavy is 1-1 in seven starts. Go figure.
Koji Uehara has nine saves and he's been lights out (1.15 ERA; 1.02 WHIP; 24 K/3 BB in 15.2 IP). It would behoove the Tigers to not put their ninth inning fates in Uehara's hands.
So these are six games against two AL East toughies, on the road. That's why gift wrapping Sunday's game to the Twins was annoying. The Tigers are 21-12, but 22-11 would look so much better heading into this week.
Tigers probables vs. Red Sox: Max Scherzer, Ray, Porcello.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!