Over a week ago, the Detroit Tigers won their final game of a disastrous home stand, beating the Kansas City Royals 2-1, and in the process, hoping to bottle some positive momentum for the rough road ahead.
As it turned out, the clutch afternoon victory did just that. Detroit swept both Cleveland and Texas consecutively, and had a tough series in Houston, losing two out of three to the moribund yet strangely competitive Astros. All told, the winning streak, combined with some losses by the Royals, helped push Detroit back into first place and ease plenty of pressure.
See, baseball is a long season. The Royals, while hot, were never going to run away and bury the Tigers like many figured. Detroit, while struggling mightily, was never going to flame out and not remain competitive, especially in the Central Division, which is always more down than up.
Now, the positive 7-2 road trip has given the Tigers a new lease on life just in time for a big series against the Oakland Athletics. Knowing they played well away from home, the Tigers can relax in front of the Comerica Park crowd and have the confidence to get the job done. Especially considering that it seems the wheels are no longer completely falling off.
Even with two losses in Houston, the Tigers remain 10 games over .500 on the road and 19-19 at home. The fact that the road record improved in the midst of a tailspin was good news. If Detroit can somehow find some luck and consistency at home, they will be able to win the division convincingly again given how good they've been on the road.
Had many been told last week that coming back home, the Tigers would have reversed course, retaken the Central Division lead and gotten some impressive hitting and pitching in the process, most would have taken that in a heartbeat.
Player Of The Week: J.D. Martinez. No other realistic way to go than Martinez, who continues to swing the bat impressively well. This past week, he managed to add to his numbers again, and while he didn't burn his former team in Houston, his numbers didn't take a significant dive there, either. Martinez is still hitting .319 with nine home runs and 32 RBI, and until a statistical dive, he will remain Detroit's hottest hitter.
Play Of The Week: Ian Kinsler's home run steals a win. The Tigers' trip could have felt plenty worse if Kinsler hadn't bailed the team out in the ninth inning with two runners on. Kinsler's deep home run beaned off the wall over 400 feet from home plate, and gave Detroit a 4-2 lead. They'd hold on for a 4-3 win. In big spots both late and early, Kinsler continues to get it done in 2014, proving his value as a table setter and a run producer.
The Challenge Ahead: Finding some road magic at home. Both this week and next just prior to the All-Star break, the Tigers will need to play with the attitude they seem to find away from Comerica Park most often; a confident swagger which allows them to jump out to early leads, pile on and make them hold up through the late innings. They'll also need to find a way to rally late in games, something they haven't done much of in front of the home fans in 2014.
Question For This Week: Is Oakland/Detroit a possible playoff preview? A few weeks ago, the Tigers and A's split a series on the west coast that featured plenty of drama. There were walk offs, late rallies, blowout wins and more. This time around, Oakland plays in Detroit, a place where they've been comfortable during the regular season recently. Can things remain that way? It will be a big series for both teams, casually thought of as the class of the American League in 2014.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.Tags: Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, MLB