By Brandon Rothenberg
The 2018 season for the Detroit Tigers was predicted to be a rough one. Entering full rebuild mode, the Tigers had to count on veterans such as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Jordan Zimmermann. Well, that hasn’t exactly been the storyline.
Victor Martinez isn’t swinging the bat whatsoever, Miguel Cabrera started off hot, but a nagging hamstring injury has cooled him down thus sending him to the DL, but Jordan Zimmermann has shown some promise early in the season with a 2-0 record.
For a team that’s floating slightly under .500, how have they been able to keep afloat? For once, it’s been their youth.
Young guys like Jacoby Jones, Niko Goodrum, Matthew Boyd and more have kept the Tigers close to .500-something record that few predicted in March.
JaCoby Jones hit his first career walk-off home run on April 20 against the Royals, and has yet to cool down since. He made a game-saving catch in the ninth inning against the Mariners, and the Tigers went on to win the game by one run. Had Jones not made the diving catch, the hot-starting Mariners surely could have tied the game.
“Anytime I can get on base, I make stuff happen,” Jones said. “I feel more comfortable now. Gardy told me at the beginning of the year, if you see something and want to go, just run. I’m having a blast, the whole clubhouse is having a blast.”
Jones was penciled into the leadoff spot for the Tigers on Tuesday night against the Indians and blasted a home run in his first at-bat.
Matthew Boyd is continuing his success from late last season with a 2-3 record and a 3.21 ERA. Through seven games he has only given up 15 earned runs, and has become quite the weapon in the rotation. The Tigers pitching rotation looks far from the days of old as they start their first full season without former ace Justin Verlander. Michael Fulmer hasn’t been quite up to par, and Daniel Norris is out with an injury, so it’s on Liriano and Boyd to continue their solid play if the Tigers want to keep winning games.
It seems Niko Goodrum is quite the diamond in the rough for Detroit.
Across the span of two games, Goodrum homered off two of baseball’s best pitchers in James Paxton and Carlos Carrasco. Goodrum was drafted by the Twins in 2010, but Goodrum made his major league debut last season, starting off his career 1-17 with 10 strikeouts. He was then designated for assignment, declared for free agency, and was signed by the Tigers at the end of the season.
Goodrum’s second homer of the season came in the fifth inning when he broke the tie of a 2-2 ballgame against Paxton. On Monday night, Goodrum hit two big homers against the Indians. The first homer, a 2-run shot, gave the Tigers the lead. His second came in the bottom of the eighth, a 3-run shot that provided some much needed insurance runs as the Tigers prevailed in their 6-3 win.
Goodrum’s hot bat as of late has really aided the Tigers in the win column thus far.
“He’s always been one of those talented guys,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s about consistency at every level and that’s one of those things that’s gotten away from him. But you never know what’s going to happen when a guy gets an opportunity. He’s getting one now in the big leagues and hopefully he’ll grab it and run with it.”