The Tigers just swept the White Sox after taking five out of seven games from the Angels and Orioles. Have they answered questions about only being able to beat the weaker teams on their schedule? I think so.
It was quite a week for Jacob Turner. Called up to start in place of the injured Drew Smyly, the Tigers' top pitching prospect laid an egg -- and not of the golden variety, either. Allowing seven runs in two innings on Tuesday, he basically hung a loss on his team before the game even got started. By the time it was over at 13-0, Detroit had suffered its worst loss of the year. Fans and pundits sniffed that Turner's trade value went up in a poof. Of course, we argued otherwise, saying there will be hiccups along the way and that you have to take a long view when you're talking about a pitcher with such ability as Turner. Five days later, he took the mound to the chagrin of many who'd already written off the game as a loss. Pitching into the sixth inning and allowing three runs, the story was much better for Turner. He earned his first MLB victory and helped the Tigers sweep the second-place White Sox. He's still raw; he's a 21-year-old with six MLB starts. What did you expect him to be? Even today's top pitchers had to start somewhere, and for many the ground was shaky before they reached their current abilities.
It's amazing what a 10-game span can do for a team. The Tigers are 8-2 in their last 10 games. (12 wins in their last 14, etc.) The White Sox and Indians are both 3-7 during that span. So in less than two weeks, Detroit went from 4.5 games behind first to 1.5 games ahead. Amazingly enough, the Tigers have the second-best record during the month of July. Watch out for those red-hot Oakland Athletics, apparently. Last season, Detroit moved into first place on July 21 and held onto that spot for the rest of the year. This season, they surpassed the White Sox on Saturday, July 21. Can history repeat itself?
Miguel Cabrera is amazing. So is Prince Fielder. A thesaurus of superlatives might not be enough to capture what it's like watching Cabrera and Fielder hitting back-to-back in a batting order. Cabrera hit another two home runs on Sunday to reach 300 for his career. One-hundred sixty-two of them have been in Detroit. The 300th homer traveled 100 feet past the distance of a football field -- we're including both end zones -- 457 feet, falling where no fans could find it beyond the center field camera well. Cabrera's shots are often majestic, that may have been the most. It was his longest at Comerica Park. That makes 23 HR for the season. According to STATS Inc and MLB.com, Cabrera is the 14th batter to reach 300 HR before the age of 30. (He's 29!) His partner in crime lags a bit behind, though he is picking up steam as the season goes on. Fielder is also batting .400 with runners in scoring position. Opposing pitchers have a near-impossible mission making it past the two players if runners are on base. Just like it was drawn up.
Brennan Boesch's second-half surge. When we talk players who generally have better second halves, Ryan Raburn's name usually comes up. Brennan Boesch must have stolen some of his thunder. Boesch is batting .362 in July, getting on base at a .388 clip and had .688 slugging. He usually does that in June before cooling off -- of course the numbers are limited when he's only been in the league since 2010. I think the truest thing you can say about Boesch is that when he's on a streak, he's really on a streak. Hot, cold, it doesn't matter. Right now, you have to write his name into the lineup no matter what. But something has to give soon with Andy Dirks soon to be back (he had a rehab assignment Sunday in Toledo) and Quintin Berry continuing to be a spark plug.
Ryan Raburn probably isn't long for Detroit. Traditionally, Raburn's best month is August. It's hard to see the Tigers giving him the opportunity to prove that remains true. Raburn is batting .146 in July. When you start off a sentence like that, the rest of the slash line stats aren't necessary. With Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago holding down second base capably (when compared to Raburn) and the outfield full, there's just no place for him. Because Raburn has more than five years in the league, he cannot simply be optioned to Triple-A Toledo. But if Detroit can find a way to get him there and keep him stashed there as insurance while hoping his bat heats up, it would be for the best given his past history of second-half success.
Finally, congratulations to Phil Coke. Saturday morning, Coke had a baby daughter, Mickenzie LouAnn. The Tigers haven't lost since. Keep up the good work, kid!