Welcome to Talkin' Tigers, a weekly piece recapping the most important talking point from the week before about the Detroit Tigers while taking a look ahead.
Thanks to the significant role of pitching, in the wake of the Detroit Tigers' sweep of the hapless Colorado Rockies, one question became obvious.
Did David Price's addition do anything to help push the Tigers' hurlers to new highs? Were they motivated by the threat of competition to throw better, knowing an intense battle could loom for pitching staff inclusion in October should the team make the playoffs?
After the Tigers finished off their 4-0 win on Sunday, Brad Ausmus might not have seen things the same way. "It's probably a little early to say that, but it wouldn't bother me if it's there," Ausmus said of a competition between pitchers. "I don't know if I'd be willing to say there's an unspoken competition at this point, David's still getting to know his teammates." Ausmus did admit, though, that the trade may have injected new life into the team as a whole.
Detroit starters did finish off an excellent weekend. Friday, Justin Verlander enjoyed a rebound, finally getting into the eighth inning of a game. Saturday, Rick Porcello enjoyed a similarly dominating start, striking out 10 batters. Sunday, Anibal Sanchez picked up where both had left off, striking out 12 and appearing nearly perfect. As a whole, Detroit starters whiffed 27 Rockies in three games.
Instead of the Price angle, it's more likely to assume that Tigers pitchers were boosted by a Colorado lineup lacking its usual punch. Already gone was Troy Tulowitzki. Friday, Carlos Gonzalez departed as well. That left Drew Stubbs and Charlie Blackmon as the most consistent Colorado hitters, and each of them showed the propensity to hack and miss. All told, though the Rockies entered Sunday ranking first in National League batting average, runs scored and several other categories, they could be facing struggles in the weeks ahead.
A better test for Detroit's starting staff begins this week, as they visit home run friendly Yankee Stadium and a tough lineup presented by the Toronto Blue Jays. If the Tigers' pitchers can keep a Yankee lineup that can still slug off balance and minimize the damage from big batting in Toronto, it would be easier to say that Price's addition had a psychological impact that carried over on the field.
For now, though, look at this weekend as a step in the right direction. Detroit took care of business against a bad Colorado team, and prevented the semi-potent Rockies from getting any type of offensive momentum. Though their lineup has its problems, that much was true.
A few bigger tests remain, however, that will tell the story about where Detroit's starting pitching is headed in the final two months of the regular season.
Player Of The Week: Victor Martinez. In back-to-back games, three run home runs by Martinez helped paved the way for the Tigers to pull away and eventually win. The 35 year-old is turning back the clock, and wowing his manager in the process with some fantastic plate discipline. "He doesn't ever loses focus, he never loses concentration," Ausmus said. "It doesn't matter what the score is, it doesn't matter whether he's hitting right handed or left handed, he never takes a second off when he stands in the batter's box." Now that Martinez is getting back into a groove, the Tigers' offense is rounding back into form.
The Challenge Ahead: Surviving a rough road. Detroit has been better away from home, but they play four games against the always tough Yankees, three against the Toronto Blue Jays and two against the Pittsburgh Pirates (a city where Detroit rarely wins). That's a tough week and a half of work. Somehow, the Tigers will have to emerge from this stretch at .500. If they can do that, it will help them stay above water in the Central Division.
Question For This Week: How will David Price look? The new starter will make his first start as a Tiger this Tuesday in New York. It's common for jitters to accompany such initial auditions, so patience will be key. If Price comes out firing, however, it could help the entire Detroit staff keep some momentum they gained from the Colorado series.
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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Tags: Anibal Sanchez, Baseball, Brad Ausmus, David Price, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, MLB, Rick Porcello, Victor Martinez
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