The Tigers played like a team excited for a day off tomorrow, finishing off the Rangers in two hours and 14 minutes. I was actually kind of shocked when I came back downstairs around 9:00 p.m. after doing some work and saw the game was in the eighth inning with Joel Zumaya pitching.
A big factor in Detroit's quick efficiency was an outstanding effort from the pitching staff, led by Justin Verlander. For the fourth straight start, he was excellent, shutting down the opposing lineup by holding them to one run or less. And as the AP recap points out, Verlander is the first Tigers pitcher to win 17 games in two consecutive years since Jack Morris in 1986-87.
The aforementioned Joel Zumaya also showed that his fingernail problem from Monday night won't be a lingering issue, as he came in to pitch a cold-blooded eighth inning. He didn't notch any strikeouts, but seven strikes in eight pitches is fast work.
And if you're keeping track of such things, that is two straight 1-2-3 saves for Todd Jones. (I know, I know. What does he want - a cookie? But c'mon, Jonesy struck out the side tonight, man.)
Bring Out the Big Boi Bats
The long ball was the method of choice for the Tigers tonight, with each of their five runs coming via the home run. Getting a hit last night seems to have brought everything into focus for Gary Sheffield, as he got the scoring started in the first inning with a two-run blast and went 2-for-3 on the night. And after Sheff drew a walk in the sixth inning, Magglio Ordonez one-upped him with a three-run shot to that sweetly familiar left-center field gap to put the game out of reach.
Driving in those three runs, by the way, give Ordonez the highest RBI total (132) since Cecil Fielder's 133 in 1991. He's also three RBIs away from his career high.
There are only 15 games left, so there's not much time left for "if this happens, then the Tigers will stay alive for the playoffs until the end of the season" declarations. But if Sheffield is clicking again, and Maggs keeps swinging consistently well, the middle of the Tigers' order should keep things interesting right up until the very end.
(That header's for you, Zappatista. Did I get it right this time?)
UPDATE: Do We Dare to Dream?
Since Toronto has been no help in beating the Yankees, maybe we have to look to the teams playing the Indians. Last night, the White Sox hung a 7-4 loss on the Tribe, which reduced their lead over the Tigers in the AL Central to 5 1/2 games. Is the dream still alive?