After about a year of underachieving from professional and college sports teams in Michigan, there could be a savior that no one expected to emerge. The Detroit Tigers.
The Lions, Red Wings, Tigers, Wolverines and Spartans all didn’t meet expectations this past year, after all ended with poor finishes to the season and nothing much to show for. The Lions finished near the bottom of the NFL standings, Michigan State and Michigan both ended their basketball and football seasons in painful fashions and the Red Wings are in the middle of a rebuild.
However, a Tigers team has emerged early in the 2019 season that has shown flashes that all Detroit fans can get excited about, especially right after tough ways to end the season in the NCAA tournament by the Spartans and Wolverines. The Tigers currently sit at 8-5 through the first 13 games of the 2019 season after going 64-98 last season.
Many people didn’t expect the Tigers to do much at all this season, with the majority of people assuming they would finish in bottom part of the entire league. This was supported after the loss of Michael Fulmer to Tommy John Surgery. But this team started the season red-hot and completed a sweep at home of the Kansas City Royals. That increased their win streak to five after taking two from a very talented Yankees squad in the Bronx.
This is thanks to many young players stepping up to big spots, including Niko Goodrum, Jeimer Candelario, and the emergence of a go-to closer in Shane Greene. Greene set an MLB record with seven saves in his team’s first 10 games. This along with contributions from other parts of the batting order is the reason the Tigers currently sit first in the American League Central.
But perhaps the biggest player to emerge thus far has been left fielder Christin Stewart, who has been unstoppable at the plate, especially during the past weekend. Stewart was the hero in the second game of the Royals series after delivering a grand slam that put the Tigers ahead for good in the bottom of the seventh. He also delivered an RBI triple earlier in the game.
The pitching staff as a whole has also done very well. They are performing well enough to keep their team in the game and let the bats do the rest. Shane Greene was mentioned already as a clutch closer through 13 games, he’s a guy who the team can count on to deliver the save with a narrow lead in the ninth. But the bullpen and starters are doing great as well.
This includes starter Jordan Zimmerman, who through 18 innings pitched has delivered an incredible 2.50 ERA. Tyson Ross has also been effective, as he has delivered two good outings for the Tigers, giving up only three earned runs in 12 innings pitched.
This team hasn’t blown anyone away, but they are winning games against some quality opponents with strong showings almost every night. In a city where there isn’t much to rally around recently in sports, the Tigers have given Detroit an early spark.
Granted, there are still 152 games left this season. But if this pace continues, they may find themselves near the top of a very weak American League Central division with a real shot at sneaking into a playoff spot. So this summer, Michiganders may just find a successful team that no one saw coming to wrap their arms around.