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: 2-4
This week: at CWS (6/9-12); MIN (6/13-15)
So, What Happened?
The Tigers started the week by getting swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays, giving the Motor City Bengals a five-game losing streak at Comerica Park for the first time since 2008.
That ugly sweep, in which the Jays treated CoPa like their personal pinball machine, gave the Tigers a 4-13 record since their 27-12 start. People were jumping off the Ambassador Bridge. The sale of razors went through the ceiling. Reports of dogs being kicked soared.
But then the cold/hot/cold Boston Red Sox came to town, on the heels of a sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in Ohio Monday-Wednesday.
The Red Sox, who lost 10 straight, then won seven straight before going to Cleveland, proved to be the tonic for the Tigers.
Until David Ortiz strode to the plate in the ninth inning of Sunday night's game.
The Tigers were two outs away from sweeping the Bosox for the second time this season when Ortiz launched---and MMM does mean "launched"---a Joba Chamberlain pitch deep into the right field seats for a three-run homer and the erasure of a 3-2 deficit.
So it was a 2-4 week and the first-place lead is now at three games over second place---and surging---Cleveland. On May 18 the Tribe was 10 ½ games out of first place and in last place in the AL Central. Since then, the Tigers have gone 6-14 while the Indians are 12-5.
The week also saw the big league debut of shortstop Eugenio (EE-u-HAY-knee-oh) Suarez, recalled from Triple-A Toledo. With SS being a black hole for the Tigers (Danny Worth was DFAd), the call-up of the 22-year-old Suarez shouldn't have been surprising.
In his first MLB start on Saturday night, Suarez collected his first hit---a solo home run.
The Joe Nathan Problem persisted, although MMM must say that it seems like the Tigers closer isn't getting a lot of luck to go his way, either. The Red Sox scored twice off Nathan in the ninth inning Saturday yet didn't really crush the baseball.
Oh, and as if things weren't dicey enough, Miguel Cabrera left Sunday night's game in the sixth inning with what was described as tightness in his left hamstring.
Hero of the Week
Remember when everyone was talking about how Nathan threw rookie third sacker Nick Castellanos under the proverbial bus in Oakland a couple weeks ago?
Well, since then, Castellanos has picked it up with the stick.
Last week, Nick had three straight, three-hit games (Thursday thru Saturday), and just like that, his batting average has leapt to .270, with a respectable if not overwhelming OPS of .719.
The defense is still up-and-down, but the bat woke up big time from a slumber in which Castellanos' BA had nosedived into the low-.230s.
For the week, Castellanos went 11-for-19, though he only had one RBI to show for it.
But MMM is making Nick the Hero because if any kid needed a big week to ramp up his confidence, it was Castellanos. Plus, any production the Tigers can get from the 5-9 guys in the batting order is much appreciated.
Honorable mentions: Lefty reliever Ian Krol (three more scoreless outings; hasn't been scored upon since May 25); Suarez (HR on Saturday, two key hits on Sunday night, despite the loss).
Goat of the Week
MMM is getting sick of having too many to choose from in this category as of late.
Low-hanging fruit includes Nathan and fellow veteran Torii Hunter, whose skills seem to be suddenly eroding at a frightening rate.
Since MMM feels lazy, he's going with low-hanging fruit---in the form of right fielder Hunter.
Torii didn't have the best of weeks---at the plate or in the field.
The New Age baseball stats people will tell you that Hunter's negative defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) puts him in a very un-flattering light.
MMM usually doesn't go for all that shmancy-fancy sabermetrics stuff, but you didn't need a calculator to know that Hunter's defensive play last week was shoddy---at best.
Torii misplayed fly balls, made others look adventurous and engaged in a brutal miscommunication with Jackson, allowing a very catchable ball to fall harmlessly onto the Comerica Park outfield grass.
In the batter's box, it wasn't much prettier for the affable Hunter: 5-for-24, though his five hits did come in consecutive games.
MMM is worried that we may be seeing the end of a pretty nice career on the horizon for Mr. Hunter.
Under the Microscope
Is Eugenio Suarez the shortstop of the future?
Well, yes---but maybe not for the Tigers.
It is hard to imagine a scenario whereby Jose Iglesias is not playing shortstop for the Tigers on Opening Day, 2015---unless, of course, Iggy can't go because his injured shins are slow to respond to treatment.
If Iglesias is healthy, he's the shortstop, plain and simple.
Suarez is too good of a player to be someone's backup for life. Sooner or later, MMM sees Suarez starting at SS for someone---just not the Tigers.
MMM is placing Suarez UtM because all eyes will be on the kid, to see if he is able to provide any offense whatsoever to a position that has been both a black hole and an anchor for the Tigers.
With the team still officially struggling and still not getting consistent production after Victor Martinez's at-bat until the lead-off hitter bats again, and especially after Suarez's auspicious debut on Saturday and Sunday, MMM believes there will be more scrutiny on the rookie than if the team was humming along nicely.
Upcoming: White Sox and Twins
The Tigers begin a stretch of 14 straight games against Central Division opponents when they visit the South Siders in Chicago starting on Monday.
Rookie 1B Jose Abreu is back from the disabled list, and he hit home runs in each of his first two games after being activated, on June 2 and 3 at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Abreu has 17 homers and 47 RBI in 196 at-bats, but is hitting just .255. Nonetheless, the OPS is a cool and even .900, and that's nothing to sneeze at.
The White Sox are sputtering along at 31-33, but a good series against the Tigers could put them back at .500 and cut into the current 4 ½ game deficit they face when it comes to first place Detroit.
The Tigers will almost miss lefty Chris Sale, but not quite. He's scheduled to start on Thursday in the series finale against Max Scherzer. Sale hasn't lost in 2014 (5-0), has a microscopic WHIP of 0.67 and a skinny ERA of 2.06. He's only yielded 26 hits in 56.1 innings pitched.
MMM thinks that Sale is pretty good at chucking baseballs.
Yet in his last start against the Angels, Sale was touched for a grand slam by none other than Mike Trout. The slam came in the eighth inning. Take that away and Sale's ERA is well under 2.00. The White Sox lost that game but Sale had a no decision, keeping his W/L record unblemished.
The White Sox can be a train wreck defensively, but they can hit, especially in their own ballpark.
Tigers probables vs. White Sox: Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, Drew Smyly, Scherzer.
The Twins made news over the weekend when they announced they had signed free agent DH Kendrys Morales to a one-year contract prorated at $12 million. He will join the Twins immediately.
Morales, nee of Seattle, will be 31 on June 20 but is coming off a year in which he hit 23 homers for the Mariners in his only year in Seattle after seven seasons as a Los Angeles Angel, where he peaked in 2009 (34 HR, 108 RBI, .306 BA) but hasn't come close to those numbers since.
Reports are that Morales faced former MLB pitchers while working out in Florida prior to being signed, but the jury is still out as to how long it will take the veteran hitter to gain his sea legs. Nonetheless, the weak-hitting Twins can use whatever Morales can provide.
Joe Mauer is having an awful season in his new role as full-time first baseman for the Twins. Mauer has just two home runs and 14 RBI while batting .240.
Righty Phil Hughes, on the other hand, is positively basking in the Minnesota sun after escaping the Yankees and New York. Hughes is 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA and a nifty WHIP of 1.12. But the Tigers are going to miss Hughes, whose next start is slated for Wednesday.
Tigers probables vs. Twins: Anibal Sanchez, Porcello, Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!