Old English Report: Holy Cats!

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Fox Sports Detroit color commentator, Rod Allen, may have been almost exactly a month early when he said “we might look back at June 30th as the game that propelled the team.”

This was one of the most key weeks for the Tigers all summer, playing two teams, the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, just ahead of them in the wild card. Detroit went ahead and swept both of them, Boston being at the always hostile Fenway Park.

So Mr. Allen, back to your comments on June 30, I think these were the games that are going to propel the boys wearing the Old English D in the second half.

Overall Record: 57-48

Game’s out of First: 4.5

Game’s out of the Wild Card: 1

This Week’s Record: 6-0

Must See JV

Justin Verlander started the week off perfectly, keeping a terrifying Red Sox offense that leads the league in both runs and batting average to only one run through six innings. Numbers aside, this is exactly what you want from your franchise pitcher. The Tigers have been lacking that ace that can end a losing streaking or go into an opposing ballpark and give the team a lead in a key series. One could make a case for rookie sensation Michael Fulmer and how he’s been that guy. But there’s a key word there, rookie. With Verlander, you have a guy who knows what it’s like to be in the hunt and has found his “stuff” again. He’s pitching like the Cy Young caliber guy Detroit fans grew to love and moving away from the guy that when he pitched, the same fans felt their team was already out of it before the game even started.

His solid pitching continued later in the week, as the Tigers got a glimpse at vintage Verlander, who went a full nine innings for the first time since August 26, 2015. JV couldn’t get the complete game shutout and actually blew the Tigers’ 1-0 lead. It’s good to keep instilling more and more confidence in your star pitcher who seemed to have lost it over the course of the past two seasons, but leaving pitchers in too long in close games is what gets manager Brad Ausmus back on the social media hot seat. Luckily a tremendous hustle play by Jose Iglesias (better base running will help this team greatly in the long run) saved the game and Verlander’s gem of an outing.

Now bringing numbers back, Verlander is striking out batters 26 percent of the time and at 155 K’s on the year, it’s looking like he may be able to eclipse 200 strikeouts again for the first time since 2013 when he had 217 (Verlander led the league in strikeouts in 2009, 2011, and 2012).Verlander also has been dynamite in his last six starts only giving up eight runs over 42 2/3 innings with 48 strikeouts. Playing the pretend game, if you take away Verlander’s three terrible starts out of 22 his ERA drops from a 3.54 to a 2.43. So even the data backs how well Verlander has been and he is once again a legit ace, despite all the mileage his arm has had and the signs of decline in 2014 and 2015.

Hits on Parade

The Tigers displayed to the baseball world the offensive juggernaut they truly are this past week. The hit parade was rolling even with a very questionable 7-9 spots in the lineup.

They rattled off double digit hits in four of their six games and in the other two they still had seven and eight. Not only that, they were putting on a clinic with runners in scoring position, with a team batting average of .467. To top it all off, they embarrassed the Astros in two of those games, making a statement that when they are playing their best baseball and this offense is rolling, there is no better offense.

The Bullpen…

…is serviceable. Detroit is slowly breaking the stereotype and running joke among MLB teams that they can’t build a bullpen. Both Justin and Alex Wilson have proven to be fairly reliable in the gap innings before Francisco Rodriguez comes in to save the game. Rodriguez himself has been just about automatic. Add in Shane Greene who is fitting in nicely to his new role, Kyle Ryan with his wipeout slider, and Bruce Rondon and his lethal weapon of a 101 mph fastball, you have yourself a solid bullpen.

The hiccups are still happening though. Monday Justin Wilson was not clean in his appearance and K-Rod had to come in for a four out save to bail him out. Tuesday, the Tigers almost made it seem as if eight runs weren’t enough, something that simply cannot happen. And then again on Friday, the bullpen closed the game in a sloppy manner allowing the ‘Stros to scratch a few more runs across.

Even with great leads, you’d like the bullpen to close things out cleanly, so if there is a chance to play in October they execute.

Deadline Deals

I kept saying it and you all refused to believe it, but Al Avila stayed true to his word and made zero moves at the trade deadline. I understand Detroit fans are creatures of habit and used to Dave Dombrowski selling the family farm to get the hottest player of the summer, but I’ll reiterate, the Tigers had no pieces to give up and the market was all too bizarre and sparse for the them to go make a move. Like Avila said, getting J.D. Martinez and Jordan Zimmermann back will be their big acquisitions.

Of course the Tigers aren’t completely disabled from obtaining any new players. There is still the waiver period that goes until August 31 where Detroit, or any other team, can claim a player off waivers. One of the biggest trades in history happened during this period in 2012 when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. And then in 2010 playoff hero Cody Ross was claimed by the Giants off waivers in August. The platoon outfielder drove in the winning run twice in the NLDS, while also accumulating a few home runs off a stellar Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff in the NLCS. So who knows, the Tigers could find their own Mr. October this August.

Sadly the likelihood of this, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes, is not likely as teams lower in the standings who have first dibs will block Detroit from getting a player or the contracts of these waiver players will be too high for a Detroit team already paying the luxury tax this season.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians keep winning every time the Tigers do, so not a whole lot of ground is being made up there. The Tribe went out and acquired Brandon Guyer, who although has been battling injuries, has put together a nice little offensive season. It’s perceived Cleveland needs more offense, but third in Fangraphs’ offensive metric and sixth in runs as well as tenth in batting average doesn’t sound too bad to me. This move makes this scrappy team even deeper. And of course they also received the second best closer in baseball, Andrew Miller, from the New York Yankees. On that note, don’t be behind the Indians in the ninth inning.

This Week’s Game’s for the Week of August 1 (all times Eastern)

Tuesday 7:10 p.m. vs. Chicago White Sox

Wednesday 7:10 p.m. vs. Chicago White Sox

Thursday 1:10 p.m. vs. Chicago White Sox

Friday 7:10 p.m. vs. New York Mets

Saturday 7:10 p.m. vs. New York Mets

Sunday 1:10 p.m. vs. New York Mets