DETROIT – Wow, that was fun.
The Detroit Tigers put on a show in their first home stand of the second half, winning all seven games against the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. It’s the franchise’s first seven-game winning streak in five years, and the most promising the future has felt in even longer.
From excellent starting pitching to a lockdown bullpen to the offense’s power surge, the Tigers were clicking on all cylinders, and the fans at Comerica Park took notice. It was the loudest the stadium has been, not only since the pandemic, but perhaps since the last glimmer of playoff contention faded away in 2016.
Finally, baseball in Detroit feels exciting again.
I’ve always believed one of the best feelings in sports fandom is watching a team with no expectations succeed out of nowhere. Sure, having a great team and living up to the hype is fun, but think about the Tigers’ run in 2006. Even when compared to the 2011-2014 seasons, that 2006 group holds a special place in the city’s history because it was so unexpected and it broke a long tradition of losing.
It’s like the 2004 Pistons overcoming the powerhouse Lakers, or the 2017 and 2018 Michigan basketball teams winning Big Ten tournaments and playing deep into March.
The 2021 Tigers won’t be remembered as fondly as those teams, but they’re blowing even the most optimistic expectations out of the water, and for a fan base that’s been starved for any hint of life over the past four years -- well, let’s just say the Tigers have our attention.
Comerica Park was electric when Miguel Cabrera’s popup dropped and turned into a walk-off single Saturday night against the Twins. The next day, Wily Peralta -- this offseason’s “break glass in case of emergency” starting pitcher insurance -- shut down Minnesota’s powerful lineup en route to a sweep.
This week against the Texas Rangers, Detroit’s young stars were on display. Casey Mize dazzled in four one-hit innings. Tarik Skubal earned a quality start and a win. Matt Manning pitched by far his best game at the MLB level.
On offense, it felt like watching a continuation of the home run derby in Colorado (OK, maybe we won’t go quite that far). Robbie Grossman hit first-inning bombs on back-to-back nights. Akil Baddoo hit one out to the deepest part of right-center field. Zack Short and Eric Haase each popped two out to left field.
The fact that the Tigers can win on the backs of their young players provides hope for the future. But what about having hope for right now?
I’m not talking about making a postseason push. That opportunity was pretty much buried when the Tigers started the season 15 games under .500.
But look at what the Tigers just did to the Twins and Rangers. Those are bad teams, and they’re exactly where the Tigers have been for so many seasons. At the very least, this team is proving it doesn’t belong in that bottom tier anymore.
Over the course of the last three months, the Tigers have risen from bottom feeder to middle of the pack. It might not be the most glamorous achievement, but it’s a necessary step to take during a rebuild.
For the first time in years, Tigers games are worth planning your evening around. You don’t have to turn off the TV as soon as they fall behind. Nobody cares about the 2022 draft order. These are the little things that a half-decade of losing makes you appreciate.
Right now, the Tigers are creeping toward a .500 record, which is incredible considering where they were in early May. Everyone has their eyes on the future, but thanks to a perfect home stand, there’s something to root for right now, too.