DETROIT – The MLB regular season is coming to a close, but the Detroit Tigers aren’t done showing they can compete with the best teams in baseball.
Detroit went through a bit of a rough stretch at the end of August and into the first week of September, losing eight of 11 games between Aug. 28 and Sept. 7 to fall 10 games below .500 for the first time since a seven-game winning streak out of the All-Star break.
Since then, they’ve bounced back in a big way.
The Tigers hosted the Rays and Brewers last week before traveling to Tampa Bay for a four-game series over the weekend. Tampa Bay, 92-58, owns the best record in the American League, while Milwaukee, 91-58, will soon clinch the NL Central crown.
In nine consecutive games against those first-place opponents, the Tigers finished 6-3, even after giving away one game against the Rays after leading 4-1 for seven innings. They won two of three from the Rays in Detroit, swept both games against the Brewers and then split the four-game weekend series in Tampa Bay.
That might surprise baseball fans who don’t follow the Tigers, but really, this has been going on for months.
Even during their 3-8 stretch a couple of weeks ago, the Tigers took two of three games in Cincinnati, beating a Reds team that’s still very much in the NL wildcard race. In mid-August, the team went 3-2 in back-to-back road series against the Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals.
Here’s how the Tigers have fared against playoff contenders this season:
- 4-3 against the Rays, the first-place team in the AL East.
- 4-9 against the Chicago White Sox, the first-place team in the AL Central.
- 5-2 against the Houston Astros, the first-place team in the AL West.
- 3-1 against the Brewers, the first-place team in the NL Central.
- 3-3 against the Boston Red Sox, the current No. 1 AL wildcard holder.
- 3-3 against the Blue Jays, the current No. 2 AL wildcard holder.
- 3-1 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the current No. 2 NL wildcard holder.
- 3-3 against the New York Yankees, a wildcard contender.
- 1-6 against the Oakland Athletics, a wildcard contender.
- 2-1 against the Reds, a wildcard contender.
- 5-1 against the Seattle Mariners, a wildcard contender.
The White Sox and Athletics have knocked the Tigers around, winning 15 of 20 games so far, but otherwise, the Tigers have played .500 or better baseball against every single team on this list. Overall, they are 36-33 against legitimate playoff contenders this season (that’s also their record against winning teams, in general).
If the Tigers want to reach the postseason soon, these are the teams they’ll be directly competing against. It’s encouraging that they’ve had so much success after finishing with the worst record in baseball twice in the last four years (and the third- and fifth-worst records in between).
Detroit hosts the White Sox for three games this week (Monday through Wednesday), and then finishes the season with three games in Chicago (Oct. 1-3). The White Sox are the greatest hurdle the Tigers have to overcome in their quest to become a true contender, so these six matchups are absolutely worth watching.