Makin' the Climb Past the Mendoza Line:
A few everyday players on the Tigers' roster are still lurking below .200 (Craig Monroe's toeing the line), but they could be making the climb out of the .100s. Gary Sheffield looks like he's finally got his timing back (just missing a home run off Johan Santana yesterday) and should be on a fast rise to respectability. And though he's not expected to join Sheffield in the .290-.300 range, Brandon Inge had the type of game yesterday that might give him the jump-start he sorely needs.
Two hits off The Mighty Santana was impressive enough (even if he did look rather mortal under the bright Michigan sun). But then Inge led off the ninth inning, smacked a Jesse Crain fastball into the Tigers left-field bullpen, and sent the people home with a smile. Adult beverages and charred meat for everyone!
You know Inge must have enjoyed his post-game meal, after going 3-for-3 with a walk-off (I used to hate that term, but it's grown on me - probably just beating me into submission) home run. In his last 10 games, he was hitting .114 (4-for-35).
Getting His Voodoo Back:
Also in the "Man, he really needed that" category for the afternoon was Joel Zumaya, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings that kept the Tigers in the game until Inge won it in the ninth. It looked like it might be another rough day when he came in with a runner on third and promptly walked Jason Bartlett. That brought up the hitter the Tigers probably wanted to see Zumaya avoid: Joe Mauer. But everyone - most especially young Joel - exhaled when he got Mauer to hit a grounder to Placido Polanco. Crisis averted, confidence regained.
Some of the credit for Zumaya finding himself once again might go to Kenny Rogers, who returned to the team this weekend, and just in time to impart wisdom upon his young proteges. How did Rogers salve the wounded psyche of our Guitar Hero?
That's beautiful, man. We should all learn from Obi-Wan Kenny. The Force is strong with him. Don't beat yourself up, people. Don't let 'em see you down.
Wait... did he get that from a deodorant commercial?
Keep An Eye On That Kid, Just In Case:
Just like Zumaya, he was amped up for his first pitch on the mound - probably too much so. But if the Tigers need someone this summer to come in and push Manny, Jeter, or Konerko off the plate, Calvin Johnson might be their man. Johnson was in town to take his rightful victory tour as the newly most popular Detroit Lion after being drafted by the team on Saturday (We're sorry, Calvin) and fired his ceremonial first pitch high past Andy Van Slyke to the backstop, Nuke LaLoosh-style. (Hey, don't they both have the first name... ?)
The crowd, of course, gave him a standing ovation. All is well... at least until training camp begins in August.
Help us, Calvin. You're the Lions' only hope.
(And I apologize for two Star Wars references today.)