Tigers weekly: Pitching puts Detroit back on top
"You can hit until the cows come home, but pitching is what is going to win you the next game and keep you playing in October."
Jim Leyland said that last week. Of course, he says some version of it every week, but this time he was quickly proven right.
The Tigers went 6-1 in a homestand against postseason contenders Los Angeles and Chicago, crucially sweeping the White Sox to take over first place in the AL Central. The pitching staff didn't do it by themselves, but they certainly led the way.
It didn't look that way, when Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner struggled on Monday and Tuesday. Detroit's offense bailed out Porcello against the Angels, but Turner's game turned into a 13-0 embarrassment for every part of the team.
If momentum truly meant anything in baseball, the Tigers would have been in big trouble at that point. Instead, they rattled off five straight wins, outscoring their opponents 29-10.
"This gives us a lot of confidence," said Austin Jackson. "When you are playing the first-place team, you know it is going to be a battle every time. It's great to be able to get this sweep to finish the homestand and hopefully take this level of play on the road."
Monday: TIGERS 8, Angels 6. Torii Hunter hurts the Tigers for about the 500th time in his career, driving in three runs and playing great defense, but Brennan Boesch's two-run homer with two out in the seventh gives the Tigers the win.
Tuesday: Angels 13, TIGERS 0. The Angels' big three -- Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols -- all homer off Turner in the first two innings, and the Tigers never recover. Los Angeles prospect Garrett Richards shuts them out, ending Detroit's scoring streak at a club-record 158 games.
Wednesday: TIGERS 7, Angels 2. For the second start in a row, Doug Fister looks like the pitcher that dominated the second half of 2011. He allowed one run on two hits in eight innings, striking out 10, while C.J. Wilson has his worst start since Game 5 of last year's ALCS - also at Comerica Park.
Thursday: TIGERS 5, Angels 1. This time, it is Max Scherzer dominating the Angels. His line looks a lot like Fister's -- seven innings, three hits, one run, nine strikeouts -- and the offense gets homers from Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera.
Friday: TIGERS 4, White Sox 2. The White Sox take an 2-0 third-inning lead off Justin Verlander, but Detroit gets three back off Jake Peavy in the bottom of the inning, and Verlander never gives them another chance. Quintin Berry ends the game with a diving catch in left, then celebrates with a fist pump and a primal roar that will make every Tigers highlight reel of the season.
Saturday: TIGERS 7, White Sox 1. Detroit regains first place and Porcello redeems himself for a rough outing on Monday with eight fantastic innings. Boesch hits a three-run homer to put the game out of reach.
Sunday: TIGERS 6, White Sox 4. Turner isn't brilliant, but he pitches effectively and gets more than enough offense for his first career wins. Philip Humber, he of the perfect game earlier this year, gives up four homers in the first three innings - one to Berry, another one to Boesch and two massive shots by Cabrera. Cabrera's second, the 300th of his career, lands inside the camera well in centerfield and is estimated at 457 feet.
Brennan Boesch: Boesch has been one of the players that the Tigers needed to start producing with the bat, and last week was a very good sign. He hit .333 with six extra-base hits, including three homers.
Miguel Cabrera: The man that White Sox manager Robin Ventura called "the best hitter in this game" matched Boesch's .333 average and his three homers. He also became just the 14th player to hit 300 homers before his 30th birthday, and joined Andres Galarraga as the only Venezuelan players to reach 300.
Ryan Raburn: Raburn is supposed to be a second-half hitter, but since the Tigers passed the halfway mark on the 4th of July, he's batting just .129. On last week's seven-game homestand, he only played four times, twice as a defensive replacement. With Andy Dirks on a rehab assignment in Toledo, Raburn's Tigers career is probably nearing the end.
Alex Avila: Avila hasn't seemed like the same player since the knee problems late last season, and he's continuing to struggle. Despite getting two days off last week, he still hit just .118 and has become a liability on the basepaths.
Monday: No game.
Tuesday: Tigers (Fister) vs. Indians (Ubaldo Jimenez), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Tigers (Scherzer) vs. Indians (Derek Lowe), 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Tigers (Verlander) vs. Indians (Zach McAllister), 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Tigers (Porcello) vs. Blue Jays (Carlos Villanueva), 7:07 p.m.
Saturday: Tigers (Turner or Drew Smyly) vs. Blue Jays (Henderson Alvarez), 1:07 p.m.
Sunday: Tigers (Fister) vs. Blue Jays (Brett Cecil), 1:07 p.m.