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Monday Morning Manager: Walk-offs, balk-offs, and ugliness galore

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Happy Memorial Day! May your celebration include a read of Monday Morning Manager, first thing!

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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: 1-6

This week: at Oak (5/26-29); at Sea (5/30-6/1)

So, what happened?

If two weeks ago was Hurricane Tiger, as described by MMM, then last week the hurricane was turned into a harmless breeze.

Six losses in seven games. A starting rotation implosion. A walk-off balk. One of the worst starts in Justin Verlander's career. Shoddy defense. Danny Worth pitching in relief -- twice.

How could such a cruising team turn so bad, so fast?

Blame it on the Zubaz.

Or, maybe it was just baseball.

MMM knows that over a 162-game season, even the playoff teams are going to have valleys. The last Tigers' World Series champion, the 1984 team, actually did go through some rough stretches, believe it or not.

Manager Brad Ausmus is already talking like the bad patch is in the past.

"We're not happy about it, but it's over, so we're going to move on," he said after Sunday's 12-4 loss.

Let's hope the skipper is right, and this ugliness is indeed over.

It sure wasn't pretty, folks.

But here's why MMM is firmly of the belief that the Tigers will win the AL Central by a good 12-15 games: even a 1-6 stretch by the first-place team didn't enable any other squad in the division to make a serious move, because they all stink.

The Cleveland Indians picked up four games, but they started the week 10 ½ games behind, and they're still nine games behind in the loss column.

As usual, everyone else played about .500 baseball and no one gained any real traction on the stumbling Tigers, even when the Bengals played their worst baseball, by far, of the season.

Hero of the week

Lately, the HotW has turned into the Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler show.

In a 1-6 week, heroes are not exactly aplenty, and guess what -- it's Kinsler and Martinez leading the way.

MMM is going with Kinsler, who had 13 hits in 32 at-bats (a very Ted Williams-like .406 clip) and who seemed to be in the middle of every Tigers rally.

Kinsler is second in the American League in batting (.330 to Victor Martinez's .337) and his presence at the top of the lineup (whether he bats first or second) has contributed mightily to the Tigers' on-the-fly offensive makeover in 2014 from the plodding, station-to-station team they'd been in previous years.

For the week, Kinsler had four multiple-hit games and struck out just twice. He scored six runs to boot.

In a week where not much went right, Ian Kinsler's continuation of his season-long consistency was quite welcome.

Honorable mentions: Martinez (10-for-27, 2 home runs); Miguel Cabrera (8-for-22); Anibal Sanchez (for being the only Tigers starter who didn't suck; seven innings pitched, two earned runs).

Goat of the week

Quite a menu MMM has to choose from this week.

By mid-week, it looked like Al Alburquerque was going to be the Goat. Al-Al surrendered a walk-off home run to Michael Brantley on Monday in Cleveland, then committed the balk heard ‘round Detroit on Wednesday, enabling the Tribe to win 11-10 in 13 innings.

But as the week wore on, MMM decided that it would be unfair to make an example of Alburquerque, because a new Goat was emerging.

The entire Tigers starting rotation, save Sanchez.

The Tigers didn't get anything out of anyone in the rotation last week (again, except for Sanchez, who pitched a decent game on Friday for the team's only win).

The Texas Rangers scored 35 runs in taking three of four from Detroit over the weekend, and in Cleveland, where the Tigers were swept, the Indians sent 22 runners across the plate in three games.

MMM will do the math for you: that's 57 runs allowed in seven games. And while not all of the runs were given up by the starters, neither did the rotation really give the Tigers a legitimate shot at victory all week.

For that, MMM is "Goating" the entire rotation.

Al-Al, your sins seem a million years ago.

Under the microscope

OK, what's up with Justin Verlander?

Here we go again, asking that question.

Verlander, who underwent muscle core surgery in the off-season, was supposed to be feeling better than ever heading into this season.

But Sunday's stinker of a start (5.1 innings pitched, 11 hits, 9 runs, 6 earned runs) marked the third straight doozy by JV. His ERA is an unsightly -- for Verlander -- 4.04. His record has dipped from 5-1 to 5-4.

If the surgery was supposed to make Verlander feel like a million bucks, then how come he's pitching like a buck-fifty?

Ahh, that's why MMM has microscopes, you see. And Verlander is squarely under it this week.

JV's next start is scheduled for Friday in Seattle. You might want to stay up late to see it.

Upcoming: A's and Mariners

Are you ready for 10:00 p.m. starts and games that end past 1:00 a.m.? (Monday's holiday game starts at 4:05 p.m. Detroit time and Thursday's starts at 3:35 p.m.).

Whether you are or not, it's here -- the Tigers' first AL west coast trip of the season.

On paper, the first four games this week should be some great baseball theater.

It's Tigers-A's, and thanks to the last two ALDS, this is a neat little rivalry. Both teams are leading their respective divisions.

Remember Sonny Gray, the kid starter for Oakland who tied the Tigers in knots in his first ALDS start last year but then was overmatched his second time around?

Well, the kid is now a grown man.

Gray is sporting a skinny 1.99 ERA, he's 5-1 and opponents are batting a paltry .206 against him.

The 24-year-old has turned in 10 straight quality starts, and he's set to go against the Tigers on Tuesday -- head-to-head with Max Scherzer. That's must-see TV, no matter how late the start.

Offensively, the A's (30-20) are led by Brandon Moss, who tops the team in batting average (.290), home runs (11; tied w/Josh Donaldson), RBI (41), on-base percentage (.379) and OPS (.954).

That's all.

The A's are a tough team anytime, but right now, in the Coliseum, with the Tigers scuffling, they might be even tougher.

Tigers probables vs. A's: Drew Smyly, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello.

Then it's on to Seattle, where our old friend Lloyd McClendon is doing a decent job of skippering the Mariners.

The M's are 24-25 and hanging tough with a suspect offense. High-profile free agent signee Robinson Cano is returning on Seattle's investment to the tune of a .323 batting average, but the power has been absent (just two home runs and a .422 slugging percentage).

Other than Cano, however, no Mariners regular is hitting anywhere near .300. Everyone figured that Seattle's offense would be what holds them back, and so far that has been the case.

The pitching has been mostly good. Felix Hernandez is 6-1 with a 2.75 ERA, but the Tigers should miss him. He started on Friday, which means his next start is slated for Wednesday.

The Tigers will, however, face Cuban lefty Roenis Elias, the 25-year-old rookie who has been solid for the M's this season (3-3, 3.68 ERA).

Fernando Rodney, another old pal, is Seattle's closer (12 saves), though his season has been rollercoaster in nature. Big surprise, eh?

Tigers probables vs. Mariners: Verlander, Smyly, Scherzer.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!