Monday, June 5, 2006

Can Tigers handle lead role?

After two disappointing postseason exits by the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, respectively, the stage is set for the Detroit Tigers to captivate our summer with a feeling Detroit sports fans have long forgotten: a Pennant chase. I, for one, can’t tell you what meaningful late summer baseball means.

Check that.

I can’t tell you what meaningful summer baseball means, period.

The last time the Tigers played a postseason playoff game, I was still a week away from making my debut on this Earth. And this whole winning thing isn’t only a new thing to us. Only two of these Tigers (Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez) have experienced playoff baseball. Justin Verlander, arguably the Tigers best pitcher to date, and Joel Zumaya, are rookies. This is Curtis Granderson’s first big league season. We still don’t know how Chris Shelton will hold up in his first season as a full time starter.

Judging by the first half of their highly publicized test against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, there’s still some work to do.

The Tigers started off 2-5 against New York and Boston, and should have been no worse than 4-3. Stranded opportunities and poor clutch pitching ultimately cost them two wins. Against Yankee pitching on May 30, the Tigers left 7 runners on base in the 1st and 8th innings, both times having the bases loaded with no outs.

There is no excuse for not pushing one run across in the first, as this would have given Roman Colon, in his spot start for the injured Mike Maroth, some breathing room and confidence. In the eighth, when the go ahead run was 90 feet away and the pressure was on, Granderson and Placido Polanco could not deliver. The Yankees took over in the 11th, after a Jason Giambi solo shot off Todd Jones and defensive miscues.

Jones dropped the ball yet again Friday night.

A two run home run off the bat of Kevin Youkilis gave Jones his second blown save and the series was opened on the wrong foot, a game that should have been won. After the previous night’s comeback, with Carlos Guillen’s walk-off single in the 10th, a wave of momentum to begin the Boston series would have been the Tigers ally once again.

This first place team is now the main attraction in town, and will continue to be throughout the fall if they keep playing good baseball. But with the added fame comes added pressure, not only from the fans and media, but from a team that sits 2 ½ games behind them in the A.L. Central standings. A team that has experience, something the Tigers do not have.

The Chicago White Sox host the Tigers in a 3 game series, starting tomorrow. After getting swept the first time these teams met, it’s critical that they get a series victory this time around, or the pressure is amplified once again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think you are a great writer fenech...for should go into it!