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They ain't dead yet: Undermanned Tigers split twin bill with Blue Jays

Game 1:

Final - 7.25.2010 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto Blue Jays 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 2 5 9 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 3 8 0
WP: Scott Downs (4 - 5)
SV: Kevin Gregg (23)
LP: Jose Valverde (1 - 2)

Complete Coverage >

Game 2:

Final - 7.25.2010 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Toronto Blue Jays 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 1 5 13 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 X 6 8 0
WP: Phil Coke (6 - 1)
SV: Jose Valverde (21)
LP: Jason Frasor (3 - 3)

Complete Coverage >

Yes, the Tigers are still in deep, deep trouble. Yes, the odds this greatly flawed and shorthanded team will remain in playoff contention are slim.

But there's still over two months of baseball left in the season.

To use a golf metaphor, the Tigers have to play it as it lays. Today, they did just that, forced to start 5 rookies in the opener, 6 rookies in the nightcap.

Somehow, some way, the severely undermanned Tigers managed a split of the day/night doubleheader with the Blue Jays. They did lose game one 5-3, but the Tigers came from behind in game two beat the Jays in their last at bat, 6-5.

You can thank the much derided Ryan Raburn (or his evil twin, there was no TV, so we can't be sure) for getting the Tigers a win, if only to keep our hope semi-alive. His bases loaded double in the bottom of the 8th gave the Tigers their winning margin in the nightcap.

Despite the hastily assembled lineup, which for all appearances was a doppelganger of a Toledo Mud Hens lineup from a few months ago, the Tigers ended the day only one game behind the Twins, and two games behind the 1st place White Sox.

A win does not a season, or even a weekend, make. But it was desperately needed. If you want to look on the bright side, here's a quote from Jim Leyland about having to play so many youngsters...

"This is what these guys' dream was, to get their chance," Leyland said. "There are no excuses. Here is the moment of truth for some of these guys. The guys that want to play more and think they should play more, well they are going to get a chance. We'll see what they can do. Guys like Rhymes, this has been a dream. You wait a long time for this opportunity. Take advantage of it. Run with it. Embrace it and enjoy it. Show us what you can do. Show us if you are a big leaguer."

We could say the same about this Tigers team. We'll see what they can do. Show us if they are a contender.

With Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen out, players the Tigers are going to need to step up, did.

  • The amazing Austin Jackson had five hits, two of them triples, in the double dip
  • MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera had three hits, two RBI, and continued to hit the ball HARD.
  • Brennan Boesch is slowly coming out of his post All-Star game funk. He was on base four times (one hit, three base on balls) and had an RBI.
  • Johnny Damon had the nightcap off, but was 2-4 with an RBI in the opener.
  • Danny Worth homered in the first game.
  • The aforementioned Raburn had two doubles and four RBI on the day.

As for the recent call ups, things didn't go as well. In his return to the big leagues, Jeff Larish was 1-6. Will Rhymes made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter in the opener, and got the start in game two, but went hitless.

Looking back at the end of a long day of baseball, I don't think you could have asked for much more.

But before we start feeling too good about this win, there's plenty to be concerned about.

We still don't know what, if anything , Dave Dombrowski has planned for the trade deadline. Rumors of the Tigers having increased interest in Nationals' slugger Adam Dunn was all over the internets. But one much talked about trade option went off the table tonight, with the Diamondbacks trading Dan Haren to the Angels.

Even if the Tigers do try to bolster the lineup via trade, this team will still have issues...some which can't be fixed till the off season.

The starting pitching remains troublesome (The inconsistent Armando Galarraga was solid today, but Jeremy Bonderman wasn't), Jose Valverde is beginning to look human (allowed home runs in the 9th inning of both games, one a game winner) and the offense is overly dependent, to the point of absurdity, upon Cabrera, Jackson and Boesch.

Let's not forget the upcoming schedule is murderous. The Tigers leave town tonight to play four against the Devil Rays, then three in Beantown against the Red Sox. Over the next three weeks, there's 19 straight games against teams with over .500 records.

All you can ask of a team full of young, inexperienced players is to tread water over such a stretch. Just try to play close to .500 ball. But when you're forced to play a mix of AAAA players and backups in the everyday lineup, even treading water might be too much to ask.

As I said, we'll have to see what they can do.

But at least for one day, we can say the reports of the Tigers' season prematurely ending...were greatly exaggerated.