Few would have thunk it, but it's happened -- again. While being the overwhelming favorite to win the weak AL Central Division, the Tigers now find themselves in second place behind the KC Royals. KC has been super-hot lately, and the Tigers can't seem to get out of their own way.
For the Tigers, it's been a combination of Murphy's Law and, frankly, stinking it up.
As for bad luck recently, the Motowners have had plenty. When their vaunted starting pitchers do well, the hurlers on the other team seem to do even better. Conversely, when the Tigers put a few runs on the board, the opponents put up more. That's just baseball. Stuff happens, both hot and cold.
But the last couple games for the Tigers have been telling, and not in a good way. In Toronto, they blew a 5-0 lead, and eventually lost the game in 19 innings. During the marathon game, the Tigers used everybody on their roster except starters Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, including starting pitcher Rick Porcello on "short rest". Eight pitchers in all. But the Tigers had left themselves short-handed to begin with. Starter Anabel Sanchez was hurt, as was reliever Joakim Soria, but they hadn't called up replacements to fill those two spots. That's not bad luck, that's bad managing. And they got caught for their dereliction of duty.
Without the benefit of an off-day, Detroit had to travel to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. Justin Verlander would start. But the Verlander of this year hardly appears to be the Cy Youngish Verlander of not long ago. Indeed, he was only a mediocre 10-10 entering this game. And what happened? The Fastball Flakes man got lit up, again. He gave up 4 runs, 4 hits, and two walks in merely the first inning. The Pirates were teeing off on him like it was batting practice. Verlander would not make it to the second inning, and reports say he might even be injured.
Still, that doesn't excuse the Tigers' overall play of late. They're committing little league errors in the field, and bone-headed plays on the basepaths. In the game against the Pirates, the Tigers had two runners thrown out at home, one by at least 15 feet. This might be understandable if the Tigers were trying to score the winning run late in a close game, or perhaps end a marathon like they endured in Toronto. But they were several runs behind at the time in Pittsburgh. Either the baserunners ran through the stop signal, or the third base coach waved them on. One way or the other, this is flat-out dumb baseball.
With their pitching staff gassed, or hurt, the Tigers had to call up (finally) a few scrubs from the minors to hopefully tide them over. Predictably, they got lit up like pinball machines as well. More batting practice for the other guys.
And it's not going to get any easier. Far from it. The Tigers still have two double-headers staring them in the face in the month of August, with only two off days. With Sanchez hurt, Verlander iffy at best, and the overall play of their positional players of late -- this may not bode well.
Further, their remaining games are not in their favor either. The "experts" have said the Tigers' schedule is the second toughest in the major leagues, behind only that of the Baltimore Orioles, who are, somewhat surprisingly, soaring high out in the East.
Once thought to be a "lock" to easily win the Central Division, the Tigers appear to be anything but.
Currently, they're in a dogfight to merely make the playoffs, even as a wildcard, where they would face a one game elimination match against the other wild card. Anything could happen. Got a coin to flip? Feel lucky?
But despite their recent bad play and Murphy's Law, I suspect they'll find a way to right their ship and cruise into the playoffs as division champions.
They better, or everybody from President/GM Dave Dombrowski to rookie manager Brad Ausmus is going to have some serious 'splainin to do.....