The Tigers obviously will fall short of the win total most -- myself included -- predicted for them. The best they can do is 89. Yet here they are this morning, standing on the edge of defending their Central Division crown, anyway. But, it's not a done deal yet. So the Tigers had best take care of business tonight so that the fans can enjoy the rest of the regular season in relative mental peace.
They took care of business when they needed to. Two Mondays ago, Detroit fell three games behind Chicago after losing a makeup game that evening. A Monday ago, they trailed the White Sox by a game. The Tigers got back into the driver's seat by sweeping the Royals in a four-game series, and taking two out of three on the road at Minnesota. True, if Chicago hadn't fallen on its collective face in the past two weeks, the standings would look different. But you have to give credit to the Tigers for doing their part.
Rah-rah-ree, kick 'em in the knee, rah-rah-rass, kick 'em in the ... ? Tony Paul of the Detroit News had an interesting note about the Tigers' energy level in a recent column. He wrote:
On Monday, Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel was talking to reporters about how his current team didn't appear as "pumped up" in a pennant race as his team last year, St. Louis, was. Leyland addressed the comments, and Dotel's fellow Tigers certainly read the comments.
And three days later, the Tigers are fresh off a four-game sweep of the Royals and in first place alone.
The Tigers did it with serious energy, particularly the last two days.
Maybe Prince Fielder wasn't the only big offseason addition.
The acquisition of Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez paid off. For a period of time, it appeared as if Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski's key midseason trade was going to end in complete disaster. With some pleading for Sanchez's place in the rotation to be cut short after only three or four starts, and others noting that Infante's defense was as bad as all the other Tigers' second basemen while his offense wasn't much better, you began to wonder if this was going to be Dombrowski's biggest flop ever. After all, starter Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly had the potential not just to help the Tigers in the future but also to be key trade chips. To give them away and get little in return would have been hard to stomach.
Sanchez has come up big start after start since then. He has allowed more than three runs in a game just once since mid-August. In six starts during that span, he gave up two runs or fewer while pitching into the seventh inning or deeper routinely. Sunday, while the Tigers yet again struggled to score runs, he gave up just a run to keep the team in the game. While he might not play for the Tigers next year, he's going to be remembered for what he did with Detroit this year.
Infante still hasn't delivered at the plate as expected, though his .263 average and .685 OPS looks a lot better than the team's former second basemen. He's made a few too many errors, too. But he's also managed to get to some balls and make some plays that a few other infielders wouldn't have.
In all, I'm happy with how that turned out, though I hope Omar Infante plays a little better next year.
I'm still not talking about the offseason until it's here.
With three games to go, Miguel Cabrera continues to lead the Triple Crown categories. Cabrera dropped back to the pack in batting average and now leads Minnesota's Joe Mauer by just .002. That is far from in the bag. His nine-RBI lead is probably safe. He's tied with Josh Hamilton in home runs. Did I see we'd get to relax if the Tigers clinched the Central crown? Maybe I spoke too soon.