Momentum in baseball is only as good as the next starting pitcher, but Tuesday's win for the Detroit Tigers against the Tampa Bay Rays could be the performance that helps the team rediscover their roots amidst a nasty second half slide.
Throughout, the Tigers fought an early deficit, plenty of offensive inconsistency by many members of the lineup, a less than sharp Max Scherzer start, a late bullpen meltdown and another awkward performance from closer Joe Nathan.
Yet for as many negatives as the team faced, there were just as many positives. Detroit battled back from the deficit with clutch runs and plate dicipline, saw J.D. Martinez return to power, got some excellent work out of the bullpen (Al Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy and Jim Johnson) and won in gritty fashion.
Over the past handful of weeks, the Tigers have been desperately searching for such a performance. They haven't gotten one. Most of the games they've fallen behind by multiple runs they've lost. The offense has disappeared, while the pitching remained too inconsistent to allow them the chance to win. They even lost a similarly wild extra inning affair in Toronto. It's been a vicious circle.
After a big win, the hot and cold Tigers now have a chance to make something happen in the games ahead. Often times, all it takes is one gritty win to turn things around and get everybody believing again. Perhaps today, the players won't be gripping the bats nearly as tight, or be fighting feelings of a meltdown if the bullpen is needed or a starter gives up a few quick runs.
What could have been a devastating loss turned into a gritty win, which for the Tigers is a big deal. A defeat would have left them three back in the division and trailing in the wild card standings. Instead, they remained only two back of the Royals and in a virtual wild card tie. Mentally, the fact that their deficit didn't grow after a rough finish to the weekend and a day off is a big deal.
Now, Detroit needs to relax and know they're capable of coming back from whatever might befall them on their latest seven game road trip. The start was excellent, and finally, there's some reason to feel relief after a gritty victory.
Somehow, the team has to use the momentum from a wild win to keep things rolling in the days ahead.
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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