DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are off to a bit of a slow start again this season, but they’re still a long way from repeating last year’s five-week debacle.
Like in 2021, the Tigers have lost nine of their first 15 games, largely because the offense is completely dormant. Other than a 13-run outburst following Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th career hit, the Tigers were just shut down by a less-than-imposing Colorado Rockies pitching staff, managing just four runs in the final two games.
Detroit has scored three or fewer runs in 11 games so far, putting immense pressure on an inexperienced starting staff and a battered bullpen.
But still, as bad as the offense has been, the Tigers are only three games under .500, and just 1.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.
What happens next will go a long way toward determining if the Tigers remain interesting into the mid-summer months. Last year, after their 6-9 start, the Tigers dropped 15 of 18 games, including five straight losses against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.
A.J. Hinch will try not to let his club spiral into another losing streak, but the schedule won’t make it easy. This week, the Tigers have three games against the aforementioned Twins before three more against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. All six will be away from Comerica Park.
Then, after a brief two-game battle with the Pirates, the Tigers hit the road again for four games against the talented Houston Astros.
That means 10 of the next 12 games will come against stiff competition, and even the two against Pittsburgh won’t be gimmes -- the Pirates have an 8-8 record through 16 games.
With a new 12-team playoff and a revamped roster, the Tigers hoped to at least contend for a playoff spot this season. A 6-9 start hardly puts a damper on that, but a losing streak over the next two weeks could prove fatal, as demonstrated by last season.
The Tigers went 68-61 over the final four months of 2021, which would have been plenty good enough to compete for a theoretical third wildcard spot, had the Tigers not buried themselves the first six weeks.
Nobody should be panicking yet, but it’s not too early to have a sense of urgency.