Monday Morning Manager is a series that Greg Eno has been writing since 2009 on his personal blogs. It's a look back at the previous Tigers week and a look ahead at the current week. This season, he brings the series, featuring his alter ego "MMM", to Bless You Boys, every Monday morning.
Last Week: 3-3
This week: at CWS (4/29-30); at KC (5/2-4)
So, What Happened?
Well, the Tigers actually played more than five games in a week for the first time all season, though their seven-game week was torpedoed by a postponement in Minnesota on Sunday.
It was a .500 week for the boys, which was about what they deserved. It was a week of gross blisters, more bullpen meltdowns and the rediscovery of a superstar's swing. It was a week of Sports Illustrated covers (Max Scherzer) and the growing realization that having a rookie third baseman will be OK after all.
Against the White Sox at Comerica Park, the Tigers bats went silent on Monday, they beat up on an emergency starter on Tuesday, were grand slammed out of a win on Wednesday, and showed some grit on Thursday.
Then it was off to Minnesota, where on Friday the Tigers once again had a laugher turned into a nail biter, thanks to that wacky bullpen. On Saturday, Anibal Sanchez's "gross" (manager Brad Ausmus' word) blister knocked him out of the game in the third inning, and new call-up Jose Ortega and Mr. Unreliable, Phil Coke, combined to put the Twins in the driver's seat on their way to victory.
Ex-Astro J.D. Martinez was called up from Toledo just days after his four-homer outburst in a weekend doubleheader. Sanchez was placed on the 15-day DL.
Hero of the Week
MMM bought into the off-season warning that new left fielder and righty-swinging Rajai Davis couldn't hit right-handed pitching---and that Davis couldn't be relied upon in anything other than a platoon situation.
Color MMM red.
Davis has been a pleasant surprise thus far, as MMM submits a candidate for understatement of the year.
Rajai is stroking the baseball at a .353 clip, and he's not just feasting on lefties. In fact, his consistency has been amazing.
For the week, Davis went 10-for-21 with a homer and four RBI. He also swiped two bags and slugged .714 in his five games.
Oh, and as for that right-handed thing? Davis is blistering righties to the tune of .352 (19-for-54), while hitting southpaws at .357 (5-for-14). MMM thinks that is the epitome of consistency.
Davis, whose smile is Curtis Granderson-like, has been a wonderful addition thus far. Whether he hits ninth or bats lead-off, the Tigers know that he'll get on base, be disruptive to pitchers' rhythm, and score runs (13 so far).
Want more proof of Rajai's consistency? Batting lead-off, his BA is .341. Batting ninth, he's at .370. At either spot in the batting order, Davis is usually followed by Ian Kinsler, who's having a good year as well. So Davis' early offense has been a boon to the Tigers so far.
Honorable mentions: Miguel Cabrera (9-for-26, eight RBI) for stuffing a sock into the mouths of those who were wringing their hands over his slow start; and Nick Castellanos (six hits, a home run, five RBI and growing confidence).
Goat of the Week
MMM thinks this is getting old already, but the Tigers bullpen is the elephant in the room. You just can't NOT talk about it.
So once again, the Goat isn't one player, it's an entity.
The bullpen hijinks started on Tuesday, when Tiger Killer Phil Coke took a five-run lead into the ninth inning and quickly turned it into an 8-6 game, thanks to a two-run homer by Adam Dunn. This prompted manager Brad Ausmus to send for Joba Chamberlain, who nailed down his first save of the season.
Wednesday, Ian Krol served up a grand slam to Chicago's Marcus Semien in the seventh inning that turned a 4-2 Tigers lead into the eventual final score of 6-4.
On Thursday, a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning was turned into a 5-4 thriller by the pen. The Tigers won, 7-4.
On Friday, a 10-1 lead was whittled down to 10-6, as the bullpen again came apart at the seams.
MMM apologizes for this disturbing trip down memory lane, by the way.
On Saturday, after Sanchez had to depart early, newcomer Ortega entered and found the strike zone as elusive as that Malaysian jet. In 1.1 innings, Ortega walked four and all four scored, partially thanks to our old friend, Coke. Ortega walked ‘em, Coke knocked ‘em in.
The Ortega-Coke defecation turned a 2-0 Tigers lead into a 4-2 deficit, and the Twins went on to a 5-3 win.
MMM would like to say that the bullpen has had better weeks, but this stuff is becoming par for the course.
Under the Microscope
For the record, MMM wants to remind you that, yes, Miguel Cabrera got put UtM last week and Miggy responded big time. So how about a pat on MMM's back, eh?
Fine. Be that way.
As far as this week, MMM looks at Drew Smyly and sees a big, fat microscope.
With Sanchez down and likely missing two or three starts, the Tigers will need the lefty starter Smyly to step it up.
Thanks to two off days scheduled this week, the Tigers won't need a fifth starter (read: Sanchez's replacement in the rotation) until May 6 at the earliest. At press time, no replacement has been named for Sanchez in the starting rotation.
That means Smyly, at least temporarily, can't pitch like a meandering no. 5 starter.
Increasingly steady Rick Porcello is suddenly a solid no. 3 starter, which means Smyly theoretically gets bumped up a notch on the totem pole.
MMM wants to see how Smyly does in his higher profile role.
If it's anything like his last start, MMM and Tigers fans will be pleased as punch.
Smyly threw six smart innings at the Chisox last Wednesday, surrendering just two runs with seven strikeouts and only one walk. That was the Ian Krol game, so Drew was screwed out of a win.
Smyly's ERA is a decent 3.60, and his strikeout/walk ratio is a nifty 15/4.
But MMM can't stress enough that Drew can't be the obvious weak link as the Tigers prepare to face the next couple of weeks (at least) without Sanchez.
Upcoming: White Sox and Royals
The AL Central tour continues this week.
The Tigers will play five more intra-division games, making it 11 straight against their Central cohorts.
Justin Verlander (3-1) kicks off the two-game series in Chicago on Tuesday, which will be a full week since his last start, thanks to a postponement and a scheduled off day.
Verlander, who was fairly smooth in his start against the White Sox last Tuesday, will shoot for his fourth win of the season against a Chicago team that suddenly can bash. The much-anticipated Verlander-Chris Sale match-up didn't occur last week, as Sale hastily went on the DL.
In Detroit last week, the Pale Hose were feisty in every game. They wouldn't go away in either of the two Tigers wins. MMM is starting to re-think his pre-season suggestion that the Kansas City Royals will be the team that most closely pursues the Bengals.
Tigers probables vs. White Sox: Verlander, Smyly.
After the quickie in the Windy City (hey, that rhymes!), the Tigers' road show ends with a weekend series in Kansas City.
The Royals are treading water at 12-12, and as expected, their pitching has been their life preserver.
KC's team ERA is a deft 3.10, good for sixth in MLB. Starters are 15/24 in quality starts. But the offense lags in just about every major category. Royals ace James Shields is set to go against Detroit over the weekend (he started on Sunday in Baltimore and won, 9-3).
Billy Butler, who MMM thinks has a career BA of .589 vs. Detroit, is hitting just .209 with no homers and eight RBI.
Eric Hosmer has zero homers in 95 AB, which combined with Butler means those two have no dingers in 186 at-bats. MMM is flabbergasted.
Even blossoming catcher Salvador Perez is scuffling, hitting just .239 with a homer and six RBI.
Tigers probables vs. Royals: Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!