Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn’t believe in momentum in baseball. He subscribes to the age-old theory that “momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”
I disagree to a certain extent.
There clearly is momentum in the major leagues. It’s the only way to explain how bad teams go on extended winning streaks and good teams on extended losing streaks throughout the course of every baseball season.
At the same time, as Leyland suggests, the next day’s starting pitcher can bring a team’s momentum to a screeching halt.
The Tigers are entering a potential turning-point part of their season. They’re coming off that emotional, come-from-behind victory Sunday at Cincinnati where they rallied from a four-run deficit in the late innings.
Whether that turns around a season remains to be seen, but it’s certainly the type of victory that should at least ignite a winning streak.
The Tigers haven’t won more than three in a row since their two, four-game streaks in the opening two weeks of the season.
A team that was picked by some to contend for a World Series title is due to get hot, and this might just be the time.
Of course, one could have said the same thing under similar circumstances after the Tigers overcame a six-run deficit to beat the White Sox in Chicago on May 15.
Detroit promptly returned home to lose its next two to lowly Minnesota.
That was a bad sign at the time. If it happens again, it will be an even worse sign.
The Tigers, who are 28-32 and five games behind the first-place White Sox in the American League Central, are entering a stretch in which they need to do some damage.
The news Tuesday that reliever Octavio Dotel is going on the disabled list was another setback for an injured team. But there are enough healthy bodies — Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder among them — to beat up on the Chicago Cubs (20-40), Colorado Rockies (24-35), St. Louis Cardinals (31-30) and Pittsburgh Pirates (32-27).
The Tigers open a three-game series against the Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field with inconsistent Max Scherzer on the mound. The Tigers then have three at home against the Rockies, three at home against the Cardinals and three on the road against the Pirates.
Coming off that stunning rally against Cincinnati’s seemingly unbeatable closer, Aroldis Chapman, the time is right for the majors’ biggest early season disappointment to start living up to its preseason hype.
If it doesn’t happen, the concern that it might never happen for the 2012 Detroit Tigers is going to become much greater, even in mid-June.