Last night, the Tigers did something they’ve struggled to do in the last month of the season: beat an inferior opponent to a pulp. And this three-game winning streak has given me a little extra hop in my step.
Not so much because the Twins’ 2-1/2 game deficit is now insurmountable. But because in the last three games the Tigers’ strengths — the only way they can win down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs — were showcased in those three wins.
For the Detroit to be successful in the stretch run, they have to follow the standard advice for every wedding planner in America: Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue.
The best part about last night’s win might be Carlos Guillen’s home run from the right side of the plate (the home run from the left side wasn’t too bad either.) Not that Guillen is going to be an Albert Pujols from the right side. And Detroit isn’t in dire need of pop from the right side since Miguel Cabrera has that covered.
But just the fact that Guillen’s right shoulder is healthy enough for him to actually be a switch hitter is a great sign for the Tigers. The healthier he is, the more potent Detroit’s pretty weak lineup becomes. He, like Magglio Ordonez, may not have as much pop on the bag but their veterans who know how to get on base. And late in the season, base runners are always at a premium.
Other Tiger vets — Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Nate Robertson among others — will play a major role and all of them have been having good, not great, years. Well, maybe not Robertson, but his win Sunday was huge.
Rick Porcello shined last night and continues making a case for American League rookie of the year. His success down the stretch, and whether or not he can hold up as his innings keep piling on, could make or break Detroit in the end. He’s essentially the 2006 Justin Verlander of this team.
Another player who could make an impact is Alex Avila. He hasn’t made much noise since he roared onto the scene in mid-August but his left-handed bat is a tactical tool for Leyland in late-game situations.
Edwin Jackson, Adam Everett and Gerald Laird are the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Everett and Laird contributed to the Tigers’ offensive impotence but greatly improved their defense. Jackson has helped compensate for the lack of offense by being an awesome pitcher.
Jackson had struggled in September, but his seven-inning gem on Tuesday is a small return to form. Detroit needs his arm as much as Verlander’s.
Yeah, nothing really works here, so I’ll use this as an excuse to talk about the bullpen, who was clutch in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Twins. Verlander and Jackson can eat up innings in the final two weeks, but whoever pitches in slots three through five will need help. Brandon Lyon, Bobby Seay and Rodney might actually be feared relievers this October.
Just like any wedding, I just want this season to end so I can get to the free bar and celebrate. But before that happens Detroit should make sure not to trip on its way down the proverbial aisle.
This post also appears at The Sports Bank.