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: 2-5
This week: at Pit (Aug. 11-12); PIT (Aug. 13-14); SEA (Aug. 15-17)
So, What Happened?
That may have been one of the ugliest weeks of baseball for the Tigers, on and off the field, in recent memory.
How bad was it?
Let's start with the win/loss record. The Tigers went 2-5 in an agonizing road trip to the Yankees and the Blue Jays, where the bats were ice cold.
Let's continue with the personal struggles of key guys like Miguel Cabrera, Joe Nathan and J.D. Martinez—and that's just to name three.
Then, off the field, the Tigers were stung by the moving to the disabled list of pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria, both out with injuries to their side. Sanchez will be out at least four weeks and Soria will miss at least 15 days.
Manager Brad Ausmus is being raked over the coals daily by the fan base because of everything he does.
The Tigers' lead in the AL Central is down to a half-game over the surging (again) Kansas City Royals. A roster move (not yet made at the time of this writing) is forthcoming to replace Soria, as Robbie Ray was announced to be taking Sanchez's next start.
Finally, in a fitting end to a rotten week, the Tigers blew a 5-0 lead on Sunday and lost, 6-5, in 19 innings.
MMM says you can take that week and shove it up your gap.
Hero of the Week
There weren't many heroics last week, but MMM likes what David Price did in his first full week as a Tiger.
Price made two starts and in the first, he went 8.2 innings in New York and left with the game tied, 3-3. The Tigers won in extras. Price gave up three runs (and two solo homers) and didn't walk a batter while striking out 10.
On Sunday in Toronto, the final line didn't look great (6 IP, 4 R, 3 BB, 6 K) but two of the runners he left on base were allowed to score by the bullpen. He pitched better than the line indicated.
So again, by the numbers (14.2 IP, 7 ER, 3 BB, 16 K) the week wasn't eye-popping, but MMM especially liked Price's Tigers debut in New York. He gave his team a chance to win, and they did.
Honorable mentions: Ian Kinsler (10 hits, nine of which came in the last four games of the week); Pat McCoy (the lefty reliever gave the Tigers three scoreless innings of relief on Sunday when the bullpen was running out of arms); Max Scherzer (eight masterful innings on Saturday; more on that later); Nick Castellanos (clutch two-run homer on Friday night to tie the game in the ninth; Eugenio Suarez followed with a solo shot to lift the Tigers to victory).
Goat of the Week
Where do you want MMM to start?
There was no shortage of Goats last week.
From Nathan to Cabrera to Ausmus to the offense in general, there is a plethora of candidates.
MMM is going with the skipper, Ausmus, whose overall bullpen mismanagement and odd pinch hitting decisions left a lot to be desired all week.
MMM won't rehash, because you know to what is being referred here.
The tenderness of Ausmus' managerial chops is being exposed more as the season goes on. As the games grow in importance, the heat in the manager's kitchen rises in direct proportion.
Most egregious was the removal of Max Scherzer on Saturday.
Max had pitched brilliantly and was sitting on 107 pitches through eight innings. He was fiercely protecting a 2-1 lead.
Yet Ausmus went with Nathan in the ninth, despite the fact that the closer had thrown 26 pitches on Friday night.
Nathan blew the lead and the Jays won in extras.
Scherzer tried to protect his manager by telling the press that he was gassed.
If that is truly the case, then why not get Soria up, due to Nathan's very shaky save on Friday? MMM thought that was one of the allures of acquiring Soria in the first place—that he could close in a pinch.
Soria did indeed get into the game with one out in the ninth. He got the final two outs, but suffered an injury to his side in the process.
MMM found the removal of Scherzer to be indefensible, as stated on Twitter by yours truly.
MMM supposes that we all need to accept Scherzer's side of the story at face value, but the whole thing chafes, doesn't it?
Under the Microscope
Is Miguel Cabrera hurt, or is he not?
This is becoming ghoulishly familiar with the big guy, isn't it?
Miggy is slumping. He was 1-for-18 to start the road trip and once again he seems to possess warning track power, tops.
This is all very similar to what happened last year, also starting in August.
Tigers fans rightfully can't stomach another season going down the drain because their best hitter is not playing at full strength.
We were all led to believe that Cabrera was healthy and happy when spring training started. The core muscle surgery he had last winter was supposed to right what was wrong.
Now he seems to be breaking down again as the season marches on.
MMM says that when history repeats itself, that usually isn't a good thing.
Cabrera is tight-lipped and Tigers brass, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, say that Cabrera is not battling a groin injury, as has been rumored.
Make of this what you will: Internal word, highly authoritative, is that Miguel Cabrera is NOT suffering from groin injury recurrence.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) August 10, 2014
So there you go.
It's UtM material, no doubt.
Just like last year, the Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates play a four-game series with two games in each city.
In 2013, the odd series started in Detroit, where the teams split. The Bucs won both games in Pittsburgh.
MMM has to hand it to the Pirates. They started the season as if they were going to be an afterthought in the NL Central. But the Buccos have scratched and clawed their way back into not only the Wild Card race, but they're in the conversation for the division crown, too.
The Pirates are 2.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and a half-game behind the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh and St. Louis, this morning, hold the two Wild Card play-in spots.
But Pittsburgh has lost center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who was famously drilled in the ribs by the Arizona Diamondbacks over a week ago in retaliation for a pitch that broke Paul Goldschmidt's hand.
McCutchen hasn't yet been placed on the DL, but the Pirates can't keep playing a man short, which is what they're doing now as McCutchen is unavailable.
To say the Pirates need McCutchen is to say that humans need air to breathe. The reigning NL MVP leads the Bucs in every major statistical category on offense.
Tigers probables vs. Pirates: Justin Verlander, Ray, Rick Porcello (whose Tuesday start was bumped back because he pitched one-plus inning of relief on Sunday), Scherzer.
The weekend will see our old friend, Austin Jackson, returning to Detroit with the Seattle Mariners. MMM can't wait to see the fans' reaction, which is certain to be positive. A-Jax may even get a standing ovation. We'll see.
Meanwhile, MMM had earlier pegged Seattle skipper Lloyd McClendon as a Manager of the Year candidate. The team faded slightly immediately after that declaration, but MMM still thinks Lloyd is doing a fine job in his first year at the Mariners' helm.
The Tigers will face ace Felix Hernandez, who is scheduled to pitch on Saturday.
The book on the Mariners is that their offense might not be consistent enough to carry them into the Wild Card play-in game. Maybe Jackson can help; he certainly did on Sunday, when his three hits drove in all four Mariners runs in a 4-2 win over the White Sox.
The M's are firmly entrenched in third place in the AL West and their only real hope of postseason baseball is to qualify as a Wild Card.
Tigers probables vs. Mariners: Price, Verlander, TBD (but likely will be Ray).
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!