Coming off a three game sweep of the Seattle Mariners, the Rays welcome the Detroit Tigers to Tropicana Field. The streaking Rays have won five in a row and 10 of their last 12. The Tigers come in nearly as hot, fresh off a sweep of their own of the Cleveland Indians. That sweep allowed Detroit to stretch their AL Central lead to four and a half games.
This four game series is critical for both teams and should produce some exciting baseball. I turned to Motor City Bengals writer James Chipman to give us a closer look at the Detroit Tigers. I asked him six questions about the Tigers and his answers are posted below. To find out more about the Tigers and this series, check out the guys over at the Detroit Tigers Fansided site Motor City Bengals.
1) As the Tigers have opened up some breathing room over Cleveland and Chicago, who do they view as their biggest threat in the AL Central down the stretch and why?
The Detroit Tigers are actually their own worst enemy. Much like years past they need to finish strong and not let the pressure get to them. They have a lengthy history of late season collapses in which they simply beat themselves.
Beyond that though, the Chicago White Sox are the Tigers biggest threat. They continue to underachieve yet remain well within striking distance. I guarantee Ozzie Guillen will get them fired up for at least one more long win streak to challenge the Tigers.
Nothing against Cleveland but I haven’t taken them seriously at all this season. Beyond their solid bullpen is a questionable rotation and a lineup that fails to floss a .300 hitter. How many more times can the Indians produce one of their weekly walk-off wins? In all seriousness, the Minnesota Twins and their magical ways are actually more of a threat to the Tigers than the Indians in my opinion.
2) The Doug Fister deal brought in a starter that had a 3-12 record. Since arriving, with the exception of the Baltimore start, he has been more than solid. How big of a contributor can he be through the end of the year, and into the postseason if the Tigers make it?
Well, as we all know, win loss records are irrelevant. Fister had solid numbers in Seattle, and Detroit desperately needed a fifth starter. Fister will be under team control for quite a few years and prospect Andy Oliver hasn’t developed as we all had hoped, so I like the move. The addition will help them this season and more than likely down the road too.
Losing Chance Ruffin was unfortunate but much better than losing Drew Smyly or Nick Castellanos. I was happy for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush as they will likely see regular playing time for the M’s. Dealing away third baseman Francisco Martinez was a poor decision though. Martinez easily has the highest ceiling out of all the players dealt to Seattle.
I’m not really sure that Fister would have a big part in the post season due to the fact that a lot of teams go with a three man rotation. Regardless, the Tigers desperately needed to add a starter. Only time will tell who got the better of the deal.
3) In what may be the shortest question I may have ever asked in one of these, what has happened to Magglio Ordonez?
Magglio Ordoñez has simply just gotten older. It’s easy for some folks to sit back and bash him for his recent struggles. I’m more inclined to be thankful for everything that he’s done for the franchise. Regardless of how he finishes the season though, it’s safe to say that he probably will not be a Detroit Tiger next season. Perhaps that’s why the Tigers made the move for Delmon Young.
4) That leads into my next question. Delmon Young was just picked up by the Tigers in a deal with the Minnesota Twins. Were you surprised by the deal and what kind of expectations do you have for Young now that he’s with the Tigers?
I was very surprised with the trade. Inter-division trades are rare and perhaps even more rare between division rivals.
Delmon Young should continue to flourish batting in front of Miguel Cabrera. I have no issues with what the Tigers traded either as both Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros were expendable. The acquisition should help them down the stretch and next season when Ordoñez likely departs.
Brandon Inge is batting .183 this season and he currently has a .234 career average. He’s also racked up 1170 strikeouts in 4556 at-bats during his career.
Even though his performance was entertaining this weekend, I’m still not a fan of Brandon Inge. Small samples are fun but career numbers tell the real story. Many see him flourishing in his new platoon role with Wilson Betimet and I suppose that’s possible. However, It’s more realistic to expect an low .200 average with several men left in scoring position and plenty of strikeouts.
6) What are we to make of Jim Leyland holding over Justin Verlander an extra day, moving him to start game one against Tampa Bay instead of the last game of the series with Cleveland?
I was a big fan of the move even before this weekends sweep of the tribe. This series was important BUT there is still over a month to go, including two more series against Cleveland. If nothing else, the rest will help him down the stretch.