A brief, three-game visit to New York for an inter-league series proved to be just what the doctor ordered before a challenging home stand.
The Tigers handled the Mets, including All-Star starter Matt Harvey on Saturday, 6-1, 3-0 and then 11-3 in Sunday’s finale at Citi Field.
There are a few elements of note from the series.
First of all, there’s Miguel Cabrera.
Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians tweeted last week: “Dear Miggy… You’re making the rest of us look bad.. Knock it off! – MLB hitters.”
Alas, no such luck for Kipnis or any pitcher who faces the Tigers.
The Mets’ Dillon Gee became just the latest victim in Cabrera’s campaign of terror against pitchers.
Cabrera took a 2-0 fastball and deposited it in the upper deck of Citi Field for his 42nd home run of the season.
“That happens on occasion,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland deadpanned to FOX Sports Detroit’s Mickey York on the post-game show. “He’s been unbelievable. Of course, he got three hits again today, including that bomb.”
Cabrera trails Baltimore’s Chris Davis by just four home runs. Cabrera leads in batting average at .360 and in RBIs with 128.
“They need to find another league for this guy,” FOX Sports Detroit analyst Rod Allen said during the game. “And he might be the only one in that league.”
Another important thing to come out of the series was the continuing growth of Bruce Rondon.
Rondon came on in the eighth inning with the Tigers leading 4-3.
Rondon got himself in a bit of trouble by walking Lucas Duda to start the inning but quickly got out of trouble after a sacrifice bunt, a flyout and a strikeout of Marlon Byrd.
“We’re trying to gradually work him in slower and slower, give him a little bit more responsibility,” Leyland said. “He made some nasty pitches on Byrd. I think it was a little tough to see at that time, so it worked out pretty good.”
With Al Alburquerque’s inconsistency this season, if Rondon can handle late-inning situations, it will give the Tigers other options besides Drew Smyly, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit.
Rick Porcello continues to perform at a fairly consistent level.
Porcello improved to 10-7 with a 4.49 ERA. Although the ERA is a little high and he walked three batters Sunday, double-digit wins is certainly a good thing.
“I think he was hitting the spots,” catcher Victor Martinez told York. “A couple times they got on, he lost his control, but he was able to settle down, came right back and he had a great movement on his pitches. The ball was jumping out of his hand. I think he threw the ball great today.”
The Tigers are the first team to have five starters with double-digit wins this season.
The final important takeaway from the weekend was the fact that Martinez is a more than serviceable catcher. Leyland thought about catching Martinez one game and ended up having him catch two.
It gives the team options, especially if Alex Avila’s concussion symptoms persist or if the other catchers are not effective at the plate.
“Like I said before, it’s not on me,” Martinez said. I understand my role when I first came here. I’m just up for whatever they need me. I’ll really be more than happy to help any way I can. Bottom line, we just worry about winning games. That’s it.”
The sweep gives the Tigers three more wins to add to the total, which now stands at 77.
It certainly won’t get easier when the Tigers return to Comerica Park.
“We got a tough Oakland coming in, Western Division champions. The Indians follow them in,” Leyland said. “Just go home and keep playing.”