The Detroit Tigers are one of those maddening teams that just can't seem to decide whether they want to make the playoffs or not. They'll win a few -- here we go -- then lose a few -- stuck in a rut.
Let's look at how they've played in September. First, a three game series on the road with Kansas City. The Tigers too two out of three from the defending champs, who are having what seems to be an off year. A reasonable result.
Then off to Chicago to play the Sox. Against a team they should beat more often than not, Detroit dropped two out of three. Consider that a game lost in the standings.
In all, a 3-3 road trip. Not bad, but not good either.
Back home to host the Baltimore Orioles for three games. The Tigers would lose two of them. The O-Birds are a team running neck and neck with the Tigers for a possible wild card spot. Winning two out of three from them was a necessity. Another game lost.
The Minnesota Twins came to town for four games. Not counting the Atlanta Braves in the NL, Minnesota is arguably the worst team in the majors. It was imperative the Tigers win at least three out of four, if not sweep them. They split 2-2. At least one more game lost -- more like two.
That's 13 games with a record of 6-7, all against teams the Tigers should beat, or have to beat. That isn't going to cut it.
Just last night, the division leading Cleveland Indians traveled to Detroit. Remarkably, these two teams had played each other 12 times and Cleveland had won 11 of them. That's OWNING somebody.
But this was a chance for Detroit to make at least a dent in the six games they already trailed Cleveland by. For the first two contests, the Tigers have/had their best two starting pitchers going -- Michael Fullmer and Justin Verlander, both win an extra day of rest.
Alas, in game one, the Tribe scalped the Puddytats once again to the tune of 11-4. A beatdown. Make that seven games behind and Cleveland's record against them 12-1. With only 15 games left, the Tigers can forget about winning the division. They'd have to run the table -- all 15 -- while Cleveland need only play roughly .500 ball the final two weeks for the Indians to sew it up. That race is virtually over. Cleveland wins.
In the AL East, it's a three way dogfight between Boston, Toronto and Baltimore to win the division. All are separated by only a couple games. And all have better records than the Tigers.
If we can safely assume Cleveland will win the Central and Texas the West, that leaves three playoff spots. The winner of the East and two wild cards. Quietly, out in the West, the Seattle Mariners have drawn even with the Tigers, and the Yankees lurk only a game behind. Even KC isn't totally out of it, a couple more games back. Same with the Houston Astros, though they appear to be fading.
So basically there are six teams fighting for the two playoff spots. Obviously, that means four of them aren't going to get there. If any of them could put together a mini-winning streak, say, 5-6 games, it would likely make the difference. Likewise, a team could quickly play it's way out of it by losing 5-6 in a row. Everybody has been beating everybody else up without a whole lot of movement in the standings. If the status quo remains unchanged until the end of the season, the Tigers are out. And Tgier manager Brad Ausmus is likely looking for another job.
As was said in this space a while back when there were 30 games remaining -- the Tigers need to make a move because the clock is working against them. As the games tick off and they plod along at 500, they're painting themselves into a corner. Fifteen games have gone by and nothing has changed for the Tigers.
It's squarely their own fault. The dropped game against the Chisox, another to the Birds, at least one, more like two to the Twins, and now the pounding they just got against the Indians. That's 5 games worth in the win loss column. Add 5 W's and subtract 5 Ls and the Tigers are not only sitting pretty in the wild card chase, but have a shot at catching Cleveland after all. But they couldn't do it.
True, it's certainly not over and anything can happen, but right now the Tigers are almost a long shot to get into the postseason. One can only imagine how owner Mike Ilitch feels about this. He shelled out over $200 million in player salaries this year. The team was supposed to at least make the playoffs -- dammit. Anything less would have to be considered a colossal failure.
And it just might go down that way. The Tigers can't count on ALL the other teams in the hunt to swoon. They have to do it themselves. And getting pounded by Cleveland -- again -- isn't a very good way to start. If the Tribe hammers them a couple more times, possible, even probable given how they've owned them so far this year, it's turn out the lights time in Detroit.
Fifteen to go. To have a realistic shot, the Tigers better plan on winning at least ten of them. Bumbling along at .500 ain't gonna get it.
Personally, I give them one chance in three.