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: KC (6/16-19); at Cle (6/20-22)
So, what happened?
Well, it wasn't a losing week. For a change.
MMM won't go crazy, but a 3-3 week is OK, considering the Tigers started 0-2 in Chicago. Victories in three out of four games followed, and the good guys are staving off the Kansas City Royals, who come to town for four games.
Yes, the Kansas City Royals, who are currently riding a seven-game winning streak in which their offense suddenly resembles the 1927 Yankees.
MMM has observed that the Central Division, in all its mediocrity, allows for different teams to bob to the surface almost on a weekly basis. For a time it was the White Sox, then it was the Twins. Before that, the Indians were all the rage.
Now it's the Royals' turn.
But more about KC later.
The Tigers toughed out a series win over the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, losing on Friday night before bouncing back with two wins, including a walk-off victory on Father's Day.
The key to the week, however, may have been on Thursday night.
The Tigers were 0-2 to start the week in Chicago, and had to face Chris Sale, no less.
That would be the same Chris Sale who was posting numbers that qualified him as being virtually unhittable.
Yet the Tigers, behind Max Scherzer's first-ever complete game, beat Sale to salvage a game in the Windy City and stop the latest bleeding, which had been a three-game losing streak.
The Tigers lost Friday, 2-0, but then stormed out to a robust 11-1 lead on Saturday. MMM headed out to a social function, and was dissatisfied when he checked the score later on his smart phone to see that the Tigers had to hold on to win, 12-9.
That's the way things have been going; even when the Tigers win, it's maddening.
The culprits on Saturday, of course, were the boys in the bullpen. The Twins scored eight runs in the final three innings to turn the laughter into a nail biter.
The week also saw the demotion of rookie reliever Corey Knebel in order to make room for lefty Blaine Hardy.
There was also some good news on the Andy Dirks front. The team announced that the outfielder, who had back surgery during spring training, could soon begin a rehab assignment — perhaps within 10 days.
Hero of the Week
This is a tough one.
MMM was enamored with what Scherzer did in Chicago against Sale and the White Sox on Thursday night. The Tigers needed Max's performance in the worst way.
But along came Eugenio Suarez's day on Saturday.
The new shortstop, who is quickly making fans forget about Jose Iglesias and is on his way to doing the same with Alan Trammell, went bonkers in the 12-9 win.
Suarez had a home run and a double — in the third inning alone, when the Tigers scored seven times in the frame. He later added a triple. He also made a fantastic defensive play. Thus, Suarez fell one single shy of a cycle.
MMM isn't one to give hero status to a position player based on one game, but Suarez hasn't been a one-hit wonder since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo less than two weeks ago.
Suarez, 22, has pretty much made a contribution and made his presence felt in every game he's played thus far, both with the bat and the leather.
The Tigers called Suarez up to ostensibly provide some badly needed pop at the bottom of the batting order. The kid has delivered, big time.
So Suarez is last week's hero, and not based solely on Saturday's performance.
Honorable mentions: Scherzer (complete game, three-hit shutout in Chicago); Victor Martinez (9-for-24; 3 HR, 6 RBI); Nick Castellanos (7-for-23; three doubles, three hits on Saturday).
Goat of the Week
MMM was tempted to make Torii Hunter the Goat two weeks running, but after some soul-searching, the unlucky fellow is Justin Verlander.
Actually, there's no luck involved; JV brought this on himself.
Wednesday in Chicago, Verlander again defecated on the mound, getting roughed up in a loss that dropped his record to 6-6 and drove his ERA into the 4.61 stratosphere.
Verlander hasn't been this bad since that anomalous 2008 season.
The start in Chicago actually started OK; for the first three innings Verlander looked sharp.
If Orange is the New Black, then the 31-year-old Verlander is the new Rick Porcello — the guy who pitches OK except for that one inning where he can't get out of his own way.
JV's numbers look very Porcello-ish, in any of Ricky's years prior to 2014.
Does this mean that the former ace is now a No. 5 starter?
No, but MMM is getting tired of Verlander putting up one bad outing after the other and telling us that he feels fine and all that's needed is a tweak here and there.
Is it time for Verlander to learn how to pitch differently?
If this rash of bad starts, which has lifted his ERA almost two runs from 2.67, continues, then the answer might be yes.
Under the Microscope
This is a rare occasion where someone who hasn't suited up for a single game is UtM.
Andy Dirks is slated to be in the Tigers lineup come July, if his recovery from back surgery progresses according to schedule.
Dirks' pending return places left field, in general, under the scope, but all eyes will be on Dirks and his soon-to-be rehabilitation assignment, for he is the linchpin here.
As Dirks and his rehab stint go, so goes left field — sort of.
When Dirks is deemed healthy enough to join the 25-man roster, clearly an outfielder has to go. Conventional wisdom says that will be J.D. Martinez, although Martinez has been not bad as a left field alternative, even with a glove that has MMM recalling Dave Kingman.
Certainly the Tigers wouldn't do anything with speedy Rajai Davis, because, well, he's speedy.
Dirks was to be the lefty part of a lefty-righty platoon in LF with Davis, but Andy's back surgery put the kibosh on that.
That left Brad Ausmus with a righty-righty platoon in Martinez and Davis.
There really is no place for J.D. Martinez once Dirks returns, and it would be a shame to see the pop that Martinez's bat provides, get sent to Toledo. But that's baseball and the numbers game.
The scope, for now, is focused on Dirks and his rehab assignment, which could come within seven to 10 days.
Upcoming: Royals and Indians
The Tigers' crusade through the Central Division continues.
First up this week are those suddenly pesky Royals, who for now are the Flavor of the Week as far as Central challengers go.
The Royals' bats have awoken, but MMM isn't sure how much longer Ned Yost's boys can keep this up. The Royals have won seven straight and they're not winning games 2-1 or 3-2, either.
The Tigers are 5-0 vs. the Royals this season, but that was back in the good old days of 27-12.
The Royals changed hitting coaches (again) recently and they (again) are showing signs of life in the wake of such a change. Remember, in 2013 the Royals hired George Brett as hitting coach and in the short time that Brett was in uniform, the Royals' young hitters responded.
Can KC keep this up? MMM is leery, at the very least.
Tigers probables vs. Royals: Verlander, Scherzer, Drew Smyly, Anibal Sanchez.
The Tigers return to the scene of the start of their downfall, when they visit Cleveland over the weekend.
It was on the shores of Lake Erie where the Tigers arrived with their sparkling 27-12 record and riding an 11-game road winning streak, back on May 19.
The Indians took care of Detroit, three straight---each victory stranger and more damaging than the previous one (remember the walk-off balk?).
That sweep in Cleveland started the Tigers on their infamous 4–13 stretch of putrid baseball.
The Tribe was 10½ games behind the Tigers when that May 19–21 series started, and the Indians managed to wriggle their way to 2½ games back until last week, when they fell back to 4½ games out.
Regardless, the Indians did wake up after their 19-25 start and they now have All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis back in the lineup after some time on the disabled list. Kipnis, last week, went 11-for-30 to raise his BA from .237 to .261.
MMM feels that Michael Brantley, Cleveland's left fielder, is one of the most underrated players in the American League — and he seems to be a Tiger killer, as does David Murphy.
Brantley banged out 14 hits last week (multiple hits in six of seven games) and had this strange line against Texas last Monday: 3-5-3-1 (AB-R-H-RBI). His OBP is a strong .390 and as MMM indicated, Brantley must be hitting .600 against the Tigers.
Murphy, by the way, must be hitting .700 against Detroit.
Tigers probables vs. Indians: Porcello, Verlander, Scherzer.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!