When asked if the results of Detroit's win, an outing eerily similar to the team's 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals just a month ago could matter similarly, Ausmus was noncommittal with a head shake and a simple answer. The Tigers, of course, sustained a similar disaster losing three in a row to the Royals, but used a win on getaway day to catapult a six game winning streak which propelled them back safely on top of the Central Division.
The in-game results were similar. After struggling to do anything in three games offensively or on the mound against Kansas City, the Tigers got both elements in gear at the same time, getting a clutch home run from J.D. Martinez. Joe Nathan even pitched a clean ninth, and Anibal Sanchez had a quality start. This month, swap the names Martinez and Sanchez for Torii Hunter and Drew Smyly, and it's nearly the same exact story.
Mentally, the victory was huge for Detroit. Instead of leaving town losers of five in a row and owners of a dwindling 3.5 game divisional lead, the Tigers put more distance between themselves and Indians and Royals. Sometimes, all it takes to feel better is looking at different numbers.
"I hope (the win) has (the same effect), but I don't know if there's any correlation," Ausmus said. "I'd love to talk to you in a week and say it was the same, but right now, it's a step in the right direction."
As usual, a touch of levity from the boss, who refuses to ride the roller coster at any point, avoiding the highs and lows. But as frustrating as the weekend after the All-Star Game was, the victory could end up having the same effect. Often times, all that's needed is a little confidence in the midst of a tough stretch for a baseball team. Before getting out of town, the Tigers found some. A win is a win, except in situations like that.
Now, in Arizona, they should have the pitching matchups in their favor, perhaps leading to another hot streak. That assumption currently exists on paper, but the confidence gained from an important win in a series finale does not.
Player Of The Week: Miguel Cabrera. Since this past week included the All-Star game, we're throwing Cabrera into the mix for his loud home run in the first inning against the National League's Adam Wainwright. Cabrera has long possessed excellent bat control, and this home run was a thing of beauty, with Cabrera turning his hands inside and blasting the ball out to left field.
The Challenge Ahead: Not letting things fall apart. The last time adversity struck, the Tigers answered with plenty of wins, helping them to avoid another catastrophic slide in the standings. This time, that task will be more difficult on the road, but it will prove no less important. The Tigers have to try and rattle off a few more wins in a row to pressure those behind them in the Central Division, and work their record back up to where it was.
Question For This Week: What will the bullpen and offense do? It's a big question this week, considering baseball's trade deadline is only 10 days away on July 31. If Joe Nathan has more meltdowns while the team fails to score runs, Detroit will likely have to consider making a move for a closer. As it stands, they'll probably need a move for a few additional late relievers. Will they need one for some type of hitter? A good week from the bullpen and lineup would help quiet talk that a move is needed soon, while a rough week would only intensify the pressure on Dave Dombrowski to act.
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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