Tigers limp home for big series


DETROIT – If Tigers' fans are skeptical about their team, you can't blame them.

The Tigers limped home for the biggest series of the season to date, a three-game set against the first-place Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.

The White Sox have a three-game lead in the Central Division. Coming into this week, many believed the race would be even closer. After all, the White Sox were on the road against the Baltimore Orioles for four games and the Tigers were in Kansas City.

Hence, most thought the Tigers had the easier draw. The O's are in the playoff hunt while the Royals playoff chances are basically over. The White Sox struggled, losing three of four. But the Tigers bottomed out, getting swept in a three-game series.

First, the Tigers lost Game 1 in which Justin Verlander was staked a 3-0 advantage in the first inning. Verlander went on to give up eight earned runs. That performance had to scare Tigers' fans. It was as ugly as you can get.

In Games 2 and 3, the Tigers scored a grand total of one run in getting swept for the first time since late May.

For most fans, it was disappointing, maddening. Then again, it was simply the Tigers in 2012. The only thing consistent about them is that they're inconsistent. There have been so many missed chances, wins left on the table.

The Tigers were supposed to run away with this division. Go back and read all the preseason stuff on this division. Most picked the Tigers to win easily, like by 10 games or more. The White Sox were picked last by many baseball writers.

But here we are with a month to go in the season and the White Sox are in  the driver's seat. Many thought they would have fallen off by now. But it hasn't happened. The White Sox have held on and have the pitching to win the division.

Enter this series.

For sure, the Tigers, who are 7-4 against Chicago this season, are right there. Still, most are disappointed in the team's play, despite still being very much still in the playoff hunt. Many were so excited about this team, especially after the signing of free-agent prize Prince Fielder for $214 million. Most thought he would be the missing piece to get them to the World Series.

Prince has had a tremendous season. Still, it wasn't the season most thought the Tigers would have. And you can bet, some fans are hoping the switch will flip this weekend  and the Tigers will start playing the type of baseball most thought they would.

For sure, it will be a disaster if it never happens and the Tigers miss the postseason after going to the American League Championship Series last season.

"We have a chance to have a really good season or a bad one," GM Dave Dombrowski said recently in a radio interview about his team final month.

Granted, the Tigers play better at home. Still, it's hard to imagine everything will be fine all of a sudden, even if it hasn't been all season long. Miguel Cabrera is beat up with two bad ankles. He looked bad in Kansas City.

And as great as Verlander was a year ago, he's struggled especially after the All-Star break. Verlander starts for the Tigers Sunday in Game 3, a national game on ESPN.

The pressure is on the Tigers to respond. This weekend could tell you a lot about this team. But you can understand why fans aren't dreaming about a miracle, especially after the team's play in Kansas City.