As the last week of April came to an end for the Detroit Tigers with a national showcase sweep of the Atlanta Braves on ESPN’s Sunday night baseball, fans can once again rest easy. But isn’t that always the case after a home stand? The Tigers are now a sultry 8-3 at home but just 5-7 away from Comerica Park. Add it all up and you have a solid 13-10 team that is just a half game back of division leading Kansas City.
With a full slate of games this week against the Twins at home and a 4-game road set v. the Astros, the Tigers could get even healthier in the win-loss column.
Most Important Outcome of the Week
Sweeping the Braves. Yes, the Braves were on the tail end of a long road swing. Yes, the Braves strike out like nobody’s business. And yes, the Braves are a really good National League team. When the Braves landed in Detroit they were sporting a robust 15-7 record. Not anymore. Tigers pitching struck out Atlanta hitters 39 times during the 3-games stretch and Detroit’s offense erupted all over a very good pitching staff by plating 25 runs. Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, and Mike Minor haven’t been roughed up like that in a long time. The sweep will give Detroit confidence that it can rise up and dominate some elite competition.
Offensive Player of the Week
Miguel Cabrera was 9 of 20 on the week with a homer, 5 runs, and 8 RBI’s. He raised his season long average to .375 and his on-base % sits at .440. Cabrera is tied for 2nd in the American League in batting average with teammate Torii Hunter, trailing only Cleveland’s Carlos Santana. Honorable mention goes to Matt Tuiasosopo. He played all 3 games of the Atlanta series and was 4 for 10 with his first homer of the year. He had a 5 RBI game on Friday.
Starting Pitcher of the Week
Anibal Sanchez pitched one of the most dominant games in Detroit Tigers history Friday night by striking out a club record 17 batters over 8 shutout innings. Sanchez edged out Mickey Lolich who had K’d 16 hitters twice during the 1969 season. Being able to break an all-time Tigers’ single-game record of any kind is truly impressive. Any doubts as to whether Sanchez was worth the 5-year, $80M contract have been permanently erased. Anibal is now 3-1 on the season with a 1.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 41 K’s in just 33.2 innings of work.
Reliever of the Week
How could it be anyone other than Jose Valverde? The big fella pitched 3 scoreless innings in his triumphant return to the organization that let him walk after his 2012 postseason implosion. So far Valverde has pitched in good weather once and bad weather twice. Both of his bad weather stints were all fastballs all the time. He did bust out a few splitters on Saturday against the Braves. One short-hopped Alex Avila and bounded to the backstop. The other was a sharp breaker in and out of the zone. So he can throw it, at least when conditions so allow. But will Mother Nature be so friendly come October when the Tigers need him to miss bats? It does bear mentioning that 3 of the 9 outs he recorded this past week were warning track depth flyouts. Don’t get too comfy on that couch is what I’m trying to say.
Must Know Fact
Since the start of the 2008 season the Tigers have finished with a +.500 record on the road just one time, during their 95-win season in 2011. That’s 4 out of 5 seasons in which they are a subpar team away from Detroit. They are showing a similar trend early on in 2013. If this team figures one thing out in the near future it has to be the ability to hit with consistency on the road.
Unnecessarily Bold Prediction of the Week
The Tigers will go 7-0 this week, outscoring the Twins and Astros by a combined 25 runs.
Minor League Noise
Bruce Rondon got the call this past week due to Octavio Dotel needing some rest and rehab on his elbow. Rondon pitched on Thursday and gave up a run that tied the game. Detroit eventually lost in extras. He did average 98 MPH+ on his fastball during the outing.
Nick Castellanos is perking up in Toledo. He homered in 3 of 4 games during the week but is still hitting just .253 overall as he finished the week going 1 for 8 in his last 2 starts.
AAA reliever Jose Ortega still hasn’t been scored on. In 12 innings he has allowed just 5 hits, but 7 walks that he has mitigated with 15 strikeouts. He’s on the short list.
Avisail Garcia (injury) should be back in the Toledo lineup sometime this week.
The Tigers get right back to it on Monday with a 3-game series against the Twins. They will finally be blessed with some beautiful Michigan weather. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Sanchez will go for the Tigers. After that it’s a 4-game tilt with the lowly Astros. If Detroit can’t hit in Houston, then we really do have a problem.
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