Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Heading into tonight’s nationally televised game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers, the men from Motown are on runs of 7-1 their last eight games, and 20-11 their last 31 games. They bottomed out at 26-32, six games below .500. They enter this series with a 46-43 record, three games above .500.
Of course, entering the 2012 season they were one of the championship favorites in the American League. Then, after treading water near the .500 mark for a month…they were expected to catch fire and take control of the AL Central. Then, at the All-Star Break…they became a popular choice amongst pundits to get hot and storm into the playoffs at the expense of a Chicago White Sox team that the media is still skeptical about. This has been a long tease!
Whether this recent run is a sign of things to come, or just a string of success against a weak schedule, will be largely determined by what happens in this four games series against the Angels. Nobody doubts the strength of the Angels at this point. They’ve been a true powerhouse since Albert Pujols started hitting…and since some young stars blossomed sooner than expected at about the same time. The Angels are for real! This is where we find out if the Tigers are for real.
DETROIT’S RECENT RUN
2-1 at Baltimore (slumping opponent falling off the map)
3-0 vs. Kansas City (mediocrity at best)
2-2 vs. Minnesota (disappointing in contest vs. non-entity)
3-1 at Tampa Bay (very strong showing)
1-2 at Texas (not a disaster considering opponent)
1-2 at Pittsburgh (part of the Pirates surge)
2-1 vs. St. Louis (during Cardinals slump)
2-1 vs. Colorado (during Colorado collapse)
2-1 at Chicago Cubs (before Cubs started caring)
The big series in Tampa was a legitimate highlight. Otherwise, it’s a fairly questionable schedule that Detroit’s been beating up on. They didn’t shine vs. playoff contenders Texas and Pittsburgh. They’ve clearly been a cut above slumpers and strugglers. You can be a .500 team though and still be better than the Cubs, Rockies, and Royals. A .500 record isn’t going to make the playoffs.
What’s it take to get from 46-43 to 90-72? That’s 44-29 to finish the season as a target for what will probably be good enough to qualify. Can Detroit rate at 15 games over .500 in their last 73 outings when they’re only three games over .500 right now?
Here are the projected pitching matchups for the series with the Halos:
Monday: Santana vs. Porcello (on ESPN, Detroit -120---total of 10)
Tuesday: Richards vs. Turner
Wednesday: Wilson vs. Fister
Thursday: Williams vs. Scherzer
The aces miss the series because both Weaver and Verlander pitched on Sunday. That’s a shame, because it takes some of the playoff feel away from the matchups. Richards vs. Turner?! On the other hand, the biggest question make about the Tigers is whether or not the rotation can win once you get past Verlander. Great test here for that particular angle. It’s very hard to see Detroit reaching 90 wins unless Scherzer, Fister, and Porcello at the very least start taking care of business as a unit on a consistent basis.
Oh, we can’t forget to mention that the Chicago White Sox come to town Friday for a weekend series matching the top two contenders in the AL Central. This is a critical WEEK for the Tigers. Seven days from now we’ll know a lot more about where they stand in the divisional race, in the Wildcard race, and in the big picture in Major League Baseball. This isn’t the Orioles or the Royals they’re facing. Two teams who have been HOT for TWO MONTHS are coming to visit. And, Verlander will see action against the Chisox after missing the Angels.
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