DETROIT--It's been two weeks since the Tigers left Boston as baseball's undisputed number-one team. But when a team goes through a funk like the Tigers are currently in, it's hard not to feel like it's been two months -- especially when this extended slump comes directly after a scorching-hot streak.
It's easy to fall into the mentality that there's no coming back. A mentality that hasn't escaped Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "I think the important thing is, really to make sure the players don't start to think that this is the type of team they are because they're a much better team than what we've done in the last two weeks or so," Ausmus said after the team's fourth-consecutive loss.
Rough stretches like this can make or break a team. Lest anyone forget, a good portion of the Tigers team was turned over during the offseason -- including hiring a new manager. But for all the twists and turns along the way, this team is still having fun. And when things aren't going your way, those moments of levity are that much more important. It keeps moral high and strengthens the desire to push through and not give up.
Despite Nick Castellanos being in just his first full year at the major league level, he's keenly aware of the Tigers situation. "We're a first-place team and we haven't been playing close to what we're capable of. That's just speaks on itself of how good this team is, that we still have one of the best records in baseball and we're going through this stretch," Castellanos said. "It's not going to last. When we get out of it, watch out because once we've gone through adversity, it's going to make everybody in this locker room stronger." (h/t Dana Gauruder, Sports Xchange)
Torii Hunter summed up the entire situation well:
"Baseball is like life. In life you have storms, troubles in your life. Only way you can get over them is keep moving, keep working, keep doing what you have to do. Through every storm there's always a rainbow that means that it's finished. So in baseball you have those trials and troubles and that's what we're going through right now. But we gotta keep working hard, keep fighting through, making adjustments at the plate, working on things behind the scenes. That's weathering the storm. If we can do that, I think we're going to see sunshine soon. Just like winter, winter wants to stay around, but no, spring is coming. Spring wants to stay around. It can't 'cause summer's coming. Summer wants to stay around but it can't because fall is coming. This right here, this little funk, it's going to come to an end. It wants to stay around but it can't."
(h/t Dana Wakiji, FOX Sports Detroit)
The camaraderie isn't missing in the clubhouse. Or in the dugout, either. The question isn't whether the team isn't working well together, but rather if their confidence may be slipping at times. Particularly because it hasn't been a problem here or there, it's been a problem for two straight weeks.
"Nobody feels bad for any of the problems we're having. We've had a target on our backs and they've been coming to get us," Rick Porcello said after Wednesday's loss. "We've got to solve the problems. I think everybody in here has confidence. We just have to play with confidence and show it on the field." (h/t Paul Harris, Associated Press)
Keep in mind that it's only been two weeks. Two weeks of a season that includes 162 games. The Tigers do have a "target on their backs," and at the first sign of trouble, when there's blood in the water, it can become a feeding frenzy. The trick is for the Tigers to use it to their advantage and take it as a chance to grow as a team and become unbreakable -- and unbeatable.
"They still have fun coming to the ballpark and being around each other, which is good because it makes it easier to come to the stadium when you're struggling on the field. When you have a group of people around you that you want to go to work with, it's similar to any job," Ausmus said. "If you like the people you're working with, it makes it much more fun to go to that job. As much as it stings every time you lose at least you enjoy the people you're around and you believe in the people you are around, you know that you'll come out of it."