It was quite the weekend in Detroit. The Tigers, leading the AL Central by a game and a half entering play Friday, swept the second-place Indians in a three-game set.
The manner in which the sweep was completed couldn’t have been any more exhilarating. An absolute cannon from Austin Jackson, and a great job by Alex Avila of being in the right position and hanging on to the ball. Make sure your volume’s up for the call from Rod Allen at the :17 mark.
After severely outplaying the Tribe in the first two games (a combined score of 14-2), the Tigers appeared set to do the exact same thing through three innings on Sunday. They led, 7-0, before Rick Porcello came undone and the Tigers had to rely on middle relief for much longer than they’d like.
But as has been the case consistently since the All-Star break, the Tigers found a way to win. Detroit is 19-15 since the break, but 11 of its wins have come by one run, including 10 of the last 14. Nothing seems to come easily to this team, but the Tigers are finding ways to get the job done, and Sunday was no different.
I’ve been quick to bash and question many of Jim Leyland’s decisions throughout his tenure in Detroit. He had another questionable one Sunday, having Ramon Santiago bunt with a one-run lead in the sixth inning and a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Wilson Betemit, the baserunner, was ruled out at third on Santiago’s bunt, which replays showed was the incorrect call. Leyland got ejected rather quickly while arguing, but for the most part, I thought he did a good job of managing this weekend. He trotted out his top offensive lineup Sunday (a rarity for Smokey), and had a quick hook on his starter and relief pitchers in a game that got tighter than he wanted it to be. Leyland has the benefit of Justin Verlander on the mound tonight in Tampa, so the latter was something he could afford to do. But Sunday proved Leyland managed with a sense or urgency, which many Tigers fans believe he doesn’t do enough. With a direct two-game effect on the standings, he didn’t hold anything back.
As for the Central race, it’s far from over. Cleveland begins a 10-game homestand against the likes of Seattle, Kansas City and Oakland tonight. Anything less than 6-4 would have to be considered a failure against three of the AL’s five worst teams.
The White Sox are only a half game back of the Indians, and five back of the Tigers. Despite what Le Chez says, they’ve still got a shot. Chicago is 11-5 in its last 16, and got an extremely impressive start from Gavin Floyd against a potent Texas lineup in a 10-0 win Sunday. The White Sox head west for five games this week, with a day off between each series. 3-2 would seem to have to be the goal on their trip, and Wednesday’s pitching matchup in Anaheim isn’t promising (Zach Stewart v. Jered Weaver).
The Tigers will be in Tampa for their next four, which on paper is their most difficult series left. Speaking of unfavorable pitching matchups, check out Tuesday’s! That would be Brad Penny v. David Price. While Detroit had the best weekend it could have hoped for, there’s a lot of baseball ahead before this race is close to over.