by Rich Kincaide
Heading into the series opener at home against the Twins a week ago Monday, the Tigers were more in a death spiral than they were in a swoon. Detroit had fallen to 2-10 to open 2008 and came into the game on the heels of an 11-0 drubbing at Chicago the day before and a 7-0 smackdown by the White Sox the day before that.
When the Tigers failed to score in the first five innings of that game a week ago Monday -- falling behind 5-0 to Minnesota in the process, it meant Detroit had gone 24 innings without scoring a run.
But in what has become a recurring theme since, the Tigers, largely on the strenghth of a 6-run bottom of the 8th, dug themselves out of the hole that night and in the process perhaps dug themselves out of the hole that the whole season was fast becoming.
Starting with that 11-9 win over the Twins on April 14, Detroit has won 8 of 11 and, while still fourth in the American League Central Division standings, are only three games back of first-place Chicago. Which makes it worth noting that Detroit is a miserable 1-5 so far this season against the Pale Hose. Which makes it worth noting that if the Tigers were a little better head-to-head against Chicago, they'd be right there right now with the Sox, challenging for the division lead.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Detroit surge is the fact that the Tigers, in their 8 recent wins, have trailed at some point in the game in each and every one of them. As a matter of fact, the only game in the last eleven in which Detroit has not ever been behind was their series-ending 5-1 win at Toronto last Monday.
In two of the 8 wins, the previously mentioned game against the Twins and, surprisingly, the 19-6 thunping the Tigers gave the Rangers Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by 5 runs before coming back to win.
Detroit has rallied in the 7th inning or later for a come-from-behind win in three of the 8.
Although the lack of a key hit with men on doomed them in back-to-back games they could have won but did not win last Saturday and Sunday in Toronto, hitting is no longer quite the concern it was when the Tigers got off to that awful start. Detroit has outscored the opponent 42-11 during the four-game win streak they take into their game at home tonight against Los Angeles.
If there is any concern with the club going good, real good, right now it is this: Tigers starters are not exactly going deep into games these days, even with the club winning. Jeremy Bonderman fell one out short of the 5 innings he needed to get as a starter in order to get the win yesterday. The day before, Kenny Rogers failed to survive the 4th. Six times In the last eleven games the Detroit starter has been gone before the 7th inning rolled around.
That means strain on the bullpen, but with the Tigers hitting the way they've been hitting this week -- 11 homers in the last four games and 19 in the last eleven to go with 9 hits or more in 8 of the last 11 games -- it really doesn't matter how effective the starters have been, now does it?