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.
The Central Division is a long way from being decided. Need any proof? Just look at the 2012 and 2013 seasons for comparison.
The Detroit Tigers have once again given away a massive lead to the Kansas City Royals, officially making the 2014 season the most topsy-turvy in recent memory. For one month, the Tigers get hot and run off a hot streak which leaves them nearly 10 games ahead. Then, the Royals quickly close the gap getting just as hot when Detroit goes cold.
Once again, the Tigers find themselves in a spot of trouble, The bullpen isn't performing and the offense isn't hitting. During the season, the song has remained the same for quote some time around Detroit. There's always issues in the late innings, and the Tigers never seem to be able to push across enough runs to get the job done.
That was especially true in the midst of Sunday's heartbreaking loss. Though it took 19 innings to decide, the same elements were at play. Detroit failed to pad their lead through the middle innings, then blew a save, then failed to push across the lead run with several obvious scoring opportunities.
It's been the story of Detroit's season so far, and the story from the last few seasons. Somehow, the Tigers have still managed to find playoff and regular season success. That's the reason it's tough to blame Brad Ausmus for any one thing that's gone on. Ausmus is as much at fault as his predecessor Jim Leyland was for the same exact issues.
Instead, it's the Tigers players themselves who are to blame. Somehow, the team needs to reset their hitting focus at the plate and sharpen their late inning intensity on the mound. Both elements are lacking in the midst of all Detroit's cold streaks this season, and causing the team to slump greatly.
If history has told us anything, though, it's that the Central Division is never really over until the end of the year. In 2012, Detroit trailed the White Sox on Labor Day weekend, got hot late and never looked back. The Tigers didn't prevent the Cleveland Indians from getting hot last season and finishing a game out of first. Nobody could have foreseen those teams doing what they did late, meaning there's time for the Tigers to get hot again.
Somehow, they'll have to shake off their usual issues to do so.
Player Of The Week: David Price. Since Joining the Tigers, Price has been as advertised with a pair of strong starts that have given his team the ability to win. Though he hasn't got a decision thanks to a pair of late-inning affairs, Price has still struck out 16 in two games, and only allowed five runs, which is a dynamic way to start his Detroit career. He probably would like to have grabbed a win, but perhaps he'll have to wait for his home debut.
Play Of The Week: Eugenio Suarez's home run in Toronto. Suarez saved the Tigers from what would have been a more disastrous weekend north of the boarder on Friday night, homering late and pushing across the decisive run for the Tigers in their victory over the Blue Jays. The young Suarez has had some big hits for Detroit since being called up, but likely none bigger than this game winner which ended up being important.
The Challenge Ahead: Rediscovering momentum. It will be a rough week for the Tigers, who must play a home and home with Pittsburgh and welcome in the Seattle Mariners for a weekend series which will feature Price's first home start. Somehow, the Tigers have to get on a winning streak and find a reason to get excited again. It won't be easy, but all it starts with is one big hit or one clutch victory.
Question For This Week: Will the lineup right itself? Detroit's hitting has been terrible, and the players aren't getting it done with runners on base and in big spots. Miguel Cabrera needs to start hitting in the clutch, and players such as J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler need to sneak out of their various cold snaps. It will be a tough challenge considering names such as Edinson Volquez, Felix Hernandez and Chris Young lie in wait.
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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