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: 5–1
This week: All-Star Break; CLE (7/18-20; DH on 7/19)
So, What Happened?
A perfect, 6–0 week looked very much in the works, as the Tigers led the Kansas City Royals, 2–0, heading into the seventh inning on Sunday.
But Justin Verlander, who was removed after 97 pitches, suddenly was unable to make a pitch to save his soul. The Royals scored five times off four Tigers pitchers and won the series finale, 5–2. Still, Detroit increased its first place lead to 6.5 games by virtue of taking three of four from the Royals in Kansas City.
MMM would love to declare the AL Central race, at the All-Star break, over and done with. The Tigers are eight games ahead of the Royals in the loss column, and as we saw over the weekend, KC is still very offensively-challenged — their 10-game winning streak last month, when the Royals impersonated the 1927 Yankees, notwithstanding.
The KC series was preceded by a two-game sweep of a mini-series with the Dodgers at Comerica Park. Game one of the Dodgers series featured a quick 5–0 lead by Big Blue in the first inning off Verlander, but then the Tigers went on an NBA-like 14–0 run to win, 14–5.
The Tigers started the week by scoring 34 runs in the first three games and 12 in the final three, which was mostly not a problem because, as the hockey people say, the Royals have no OH-fence a-TALL, eh?
The week also saw how dangerous a little green apple can be (just ask manager Brad Ausmus), reports of how Andy Dirks' rehab stint is going (so far, so good) and a weird scheduling snafu that prevented Tigers fans from watching Saturday's game until a three-hour exclusive window, granted to Fox Sports National, expired at 10 p.m., just in time to catch the final out live.
Hero of the Week
MMM has mixed emotions about making Austin Jackson last week's Hero.
On the one hand, MMM is thrilled that A-Jax and the lead-off position are having such a grand reunion. Last week, Jackson had 10 hits in 25 at bats (.400) and scored seven runs.
But on the other hand, the hot streak has lifted Jackson's BA to a still-pedestrian .256 and he still fans to the tune of once every four-plus at-bats.
But this is supposed to be the feel-good part of MMM's report, so let's keep it positive, shall we?
Jackson looks infinitely more confident at the dish these days and in an ironic twist, his comfort level has been restored at lead-off, of all places. Isn't that the place from which Jim Leyland removed Jackson in last year's playoffs?
Anyhow, MMM thinks that Jackson is among the most maddening of all the Tigers, because of A-Jax's inconsistency and almost bi-polar hot and cold streaks.
Right now Jackson is hot. But he's like Michigan weather, if you get MMM's drift.
Honorable mentions: Ian Kinsler (eight hits, six RBI); J.D. Martinez (12 hits, six runs scored); Rajai Davis (nine hits, four runs, two stolen bases).
Goat of the Week
Since it was a terrific 5–1 week, and MMM doesn't want to pick on Eugenio Suarez again (the kid was 4 for 17 and he is showing a propensity to throw wildly at times), last week's goat is the person who left a moldy orange in a fruit bowl from which manager Brad Ausmus plucked a green apple in Kansas City on Friday.
The offending apple struck Ausmus down, ill, and he had to leave Friday night's game in the second inning. Bench coach Gene Lamont took over as the Tigers won, 2–1.
Under the Microscope
This is a short week upcoming, but that won't stop MMM from designating a player to be UtM.
MMM is eager to see how J.D. Martinez starts off the second half of the season.
Martinez has been fabulous for the Tigers since his April call-up, but MMM is still leery and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Will the four-day break from the schedule cool J.D. down?
Time will tell, but MMM looks at the first week or two after the All-Star Game in baseball as being similar to the first few minutes of the third quarter in an NBA game.
In other words, tone can be set and the fate of who wins or loses is often determined after the halftime intermission in pro basketball.
Will J.D. Martinez establish a tone coming out of the break? Or will he cool off considerably?
The Tigers get to knock the Cleveland Indians around Comerica Park for four games this weekend and if that sounds presumptuous, tough.
The Indians simply don't play well in Detroit, and while all good things must end, MMM doesn't see it happening.
The Tribe hasn't been able to really make a move this season, although they did pick up some ground while the Tigers were in their 4–13 funk after a 27–12 start.
The Indians are 47–47 and their so-called big guns are still more sluggish than slugging, with the exception of the suddenly very dangerous Lonnie Chisenhall (.328/.908 OPS) and the always-has-been dangerous Michael Brantley (.322/.901 OPS).
But Nick Swisher, who is aging rapidly, and Carlos Santana, who is too young to be aging, are barely hitting .200. Jason Kipnis, who MMM felt was the Tribe's best player before the season, is batting a so-so .255.
The starting pitching has been disappointing, especially Justin Masterson (4-6, 5.51 ERA), who many believed was the true ace of the staff — before the season started.
Programming note: Saturday is a day-night doubleheader.
Tigers probables vs. Indians: Anibal Sanchez, TBD (call-up from minors), Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!