Detroit — Fans got a sneak peek into how the Tigers plan on getting through this tough upcoming 10-game stretch against some of the American League’s elite teams.
Aggressive baseball is back and although there were flaws in the Tigers’ approach, they still managed to roll to a 9-4 victory over the Angels on Sunday at Comerica Park to end a four-game losing streak.
The Tigers tested the Angels outfield, dove for balls hit in the outfield and played as if their pants were on fire. But they also made dumb mistakes and baserunning errors which rankled Jim Leyland.
That might work out well against the struggling Angels, but the Tigers must be sharper against the game’s elite if they are to keep winning.
There’s a fine line the Tigers must figure out before facing the Rays tonight (7:05 p.m.) who are hot on the heels of the Yankees in the AL East Division.
“You just play the game almost like a reckless abandon like you don’t care,” said Alex Avila, who broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run single in the sixth. “But you have to play in control. There’s a real fine line. Sometimes there are going to be mistakes like the one I made. But at the same time you have to find out where that line is for yourself and for your team. If you play that way it puts pressure on the other team.”
Avila got picked off second in the third inning, but the Tigers also stretched singles into doubles to pressure the Angels defense.
That might be the key approach when they open up their tough stretch, which also includes road series at the White Sox and Yankees. These are all teams fighting for division crowns, and the Tigers have historically not fared well against them. In fact, they’re are 22-36 against teams with winning records.
“Are we as good as the Tampa Bay Rays right now,” asked Leyland. “No we are not. I would be a fool to say we are as good as Tampa Bay. We are not. I am sorry. Some people will say players read that and they will think he (Leyland) is quitting. No, it has nothing to do with that.”
Leyland was simply making an astute observation. The Tigers (54-57) continue to struggle with injuries and have fallen out of the race in the AL Central Division.
“Are we gonna try to beat their butts,” Leyland said. “You bet we are. Are we going to be prepared? You bet. Are we gonna give everything we’ve got to beat them? You bet. Are we as good as they are right now? Probably not.”
They get a break with the addition of second baseman Carlos Guillen, who returns to the team off the 15-day disabled and is expected to play tonight. The Tigers sent down second baseman Will Rhymes who had three hits and knocked in two runs.
Leyland was fired up as he spoke, but some of his players said the Tigers need to chill if they are to right themselves during this tough stretch.
“Everybody says the tough teams are coming,” Miguel Cabrera said. “We just have to go out and prepare to play hard. Right now we are preparing ourselves the best we can for each game and try to win a game. We have to stay focused and not think about being angry or anything like that.”
The Tigers were not always focused Sunday but they finally got it right. They rallied from a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the fifth, sixth and eight innings.
The Tigers got three doubles in the fifth inning and were helped by some shoddy defensive play by the Angels.
You can credit a lot of the Tigers’ late surge to their aggressiveness.
“Yeah but you have to be aggressive with some common sense,” Leyland said.