DETROIT – The first three weeks of this Detroit Tigers season have been unexpectedly fun. Home runs, timely hits, a dominant bullpen -- you name it. It’s all come together to give the Tigers a 9-7 record and a realistic chance at a wildcard spot.
No moment has been more exciting than Wednesday’s fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox. Down 3-1 and struggling to get anything going against Dylan Cease, the Tigers got an unexpected two-out, two-run double from Grayson Greiner to tie the game, followed immediately by an absolute bomb to right field for Willi Castro in his first at-bat of the season.
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Suddenly the Tigers were on top. They had a chance to win a series against a strong division rival and really cement themselves as playoff contenders. And it was delivered by two players who had combined for zero MLB hits this season heading into the game.
But the excitement didn’t last long.
In need of a shutdown inning from Matthew Boyd, the Tigers watched as he allowed a single, a walk, a fielder’s choice and a pair of doubles to put the White Sox right back up by a pair of runs.
Just like that, it was as if the bottom of the fourth inning had never happened. Even though there were no fans at Comerica Park, the atmosphere was deflated. The Tigers could never quite recover.
So instead of heading into the weekend 10-6 with a nice cushion in the wildcard race, the Tigers are 9-7. In the next 10 games, the Tigers will bookend a four-game series against the White Sox with two three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.
The Tigers went a disastrous 1-18 against Cleveland last season, 6-13 the two years prior and 4-14 in 2016. This matchup has been a nightmare for the Tigers, but they have to find a way to turn that around.
If not, that deflating fifth inning could end up being a turning point. The feeling in that clubhouse if they would have stolen a game from the White Sox on the backs of Greiner and Castro would be special. Instead, they need to bounce back.
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So far, the offense has been solid and the bullpen has been excellent. The Tigers are just waiting for the starting rotation to come around.
Beyond Spencer Turnbull, nobody has been reliable. Ivan Nova is always going to get hit hard. Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris are trying to piece together every fifth game. Tyler Alexander’s first start was a disappointment. Boyd has been the worst of them all.
There’s still hope for Boyd and company to turn it around, but in a 60-game season, the time to do so is short. Losing eight of the next 10 against the Indians and White Sox would be a crippling blow, especially with 11 games against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs on the horizon.
Detroit dominated the easy part of the schedule to get off to an 8-5 start. As the opponents get tougher, it’s time to see if the Tigers have what it takes to stay in the race.