Will the Tigers Turn the Corner?

Time For the Tigers to Make Their Move

7/16/12 in MLB   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

July 15, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers outfielders Quintin Berry (52) and Austin Jackson (14) celebrate after a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Tigers defeated the Orioles 4 - 0. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIREIt was about this time last year that the Indians bats started to cool down, and the Tigers opened up a lead in the AL Central that they would never relinquish.  This year it’s the White Sox that lead the division at the season’s midpoint, currently 3.5 games ahead of Detroit and 4 ahead of Cleveland, but the Tigers have won 7 of their last 8 and will have a golden opportunity to make their move in the division with meetings against both Chicago and Cleveland in the next week and a half.
 
Here are 2 of the main reasons Tigers fans should be hopeful right now:
 
1) The pre-all-star game sweep of Kansas City was the Tigers’ first series sweep since May 27th and their recent 6-game winning streak (which came to a halt after the 13-inning loss to Baltimore on Saturday) is the team’s longest so far this season.
 
2) The team seems to be at full strength.  The first-half injuries to leadoff hitter Austin Jackson and number two starter Doug Fister really hurt the Tigers, but they both appear to be back in form.  Jackson missed about 20 games with an abdominal strain in late May/early June while Fister struggled with chostocondral pain during two trips to the disabled list and didn’t look to be in full form even when he was on the mound.  But Fister shut down the Orioles in his most recent start (7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts) and Jackson has scored a run in every game in July so far.
 
And when you’re talking keys to getting a talented Tigers team back on track, Jackson and Fister may be the two most significant components.  You know what you’re getting out of Verlander, Cabrera and Fielder, but when they can get the support they need, the Tigers are a legitimate World Series contender.
 
The season series between the Tigers and White Sox is currently tied at 4, but they meet up 10 more times throughout the season’s final months.  It will be particularly interesting because the Tigers aren’t the only team on a bit of a roll right now.  The White Sox have also had a solid July so far, winning 7 of their 10 games and managing to keep a comfortable hold on the AL Central.  Chris Sale is putting up Cy Young caliber numbers while Dunn, Peavy, and Pierzynski are all having solid bounce-back seasons. 
 
For the Tigers, the main negative that comes from a big signing like Fielder (apart from the salary hit) is that now they have that enormous target on their back.  Last year the Tigers coasted into the playoffs (winning the division by 15 games) thanks in large part to a 50-22 record against the Central.  This year, the Tigers are only 17-14 in the Central and have consequently failed to run away with the division like so many people predicted leading up to the season.
 
But with all things considered, being 3.5 games back of first place isn’t all that bad for the Tigers.  They seem to be turning a corner and if they continue to put runs on the board when Chicago comes to town on Friday, then we could see some serious movement in the AL Central standings.
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