For the first time in 2014, the Detroit Tigers will not wake up in the morning on top of the Central Division. Thanks to another dominating win, the Kansas City Royals now own the distinction as the division's top team.
After a pair of double-digit losses, the Tigers are reeling, hoping that any bit positive momentum can return before both teams each exit Detroit on Thursday. Considering the momentum Kansas City has built up, that task won't be easy.
1. Good Numbers Against Guthrie. Five Tigers hit Wednesday's starter Jeremy Guthrie over .300, including Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez. All told, Guthrie is under .500 this season at 3-6, and has a 3.94 ERA. If there was ever a time for the Tigers' offense to get things going and respond to Kansas City's offensive onslaught, today would likely have to be the day.
2. Chad Smith Coming Up. Detroit's stressed out and overworked bullpen received another outside shot in the arm courtesy of the Toledo Mud Hens on Wednesday, as the Tigers called up Smith and designated Evan Reed for assignment. In Toledo, Smith was 4-2 with a 1.64 ERA, 19 strikeouts and only three walks. Even though those numbers are from AAA, they are much better than Reed, who had been getting knocked around lately to the tune of a steadily rising 4.88 ERA.
3. Starting Slump Must Stop. In order to feel better about their chances of winning, one of the Tigers' starting pitchers is going to have to turn in a quality start eventually, and considering Drew Smyly is the next man up, it will have to be him on Wednesday afternoon. Between Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Tigers' starters are giving up 17 earned runs the last two outings. Whether the Royals are hot or not, Smyly will have to find a way to put up some scoreless innings to help his team.
4. Two Martinez's Mashing. Most people realize the impressive scope of what Victor Martinez has done with the bat in 2014 (.337 average, 17 homers, 45 RBI), but just as good lately has been J.D. Martinez. Following up Monday's 1-3 night which produced a grand slam, Martinez went 3-4 on Tuesday with a double and a run scored. Even if the rest of the Tigers' lineup has been struggling, the contributions of both Martinez's have been fantastic lately.
5. Rain, Rain Go Away. The Tigers and Royals, already playing an extra game in this series due to inclement weather in April, might face the same problem on Wednesday afternoon. During the first half of the game, skies should be clear, but rain is likely intensify as the afternoon and evening proceeds, meaning an early lead could prove key to surviving this contest.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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