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Big Papi vs. Papa Grande: Valverde Leads Tigers to Victory Over Boston

It was a battle of the Big Daddies on Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Detroit’s animated closer Jose Valverde, or Papa Grande as he’s known to Tigers fans, went head-to-head with Red Sox heavy-hitter David Ortiz, who is known as Big Papi in Beantown.

Down 6-1, Ortiz cut Boston’s five-run deficit with one swing with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. Detroit was desperately clinging to its 6-5 lead, and Tigers fans around the country collectively sighed.

But Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn’t pull Valverde, who has 22 saves and 50 strikeouts this season. Leyland let Valverde work himself out his his Todd Jones roller coaster-esque moment.

And it proved to be the smart move, but it wasn’t pretty by any means.

The bags were full again in the ninth, this time for Boston’s 15-year veteran center fielder Mike Cameron.

Cameron found himself in a favorable 3-1 count with two outs, and was swinging for the fences. After fouling off two straight pitches, Cameron was frozen by Valverde’s splitter at the knees. Detroit squeaked by with a 6-5 victory.

As usual, Valverde celebrated his team’s triumph, this time in a rubber-pounding frenzy. The win marked the Tigers’ first since their 6-5 effort over the Toronto Blue Jays on July 25. Detroit is now 4-6 in its last 10 games, and will face the Red Sox at 4:10 p.m. Saturday.

For those who opposed the deal which sent Single-A West Michigan White Caps pitcher Giovanni Soto to the Cleveland Indians for nine-year veteran Jhonny Peralta, you may want to reconsider.

For the first time since Billy McMillon in 2000, a Tiger hit two home runs in his debut.

During his post-game interview, Peralta said he was happy to have contributed so early. He was 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Rookie sensation Brennan Boesch’s recent lack of hitting has raised concerns. Boesch went 1-for-5 with a single of John Lester, but has dipped below .300 for the first time in his young big-league career. He now sits at .299.

Toledo Mud Hens call-up Will Rhymes has impressed with the valiant effort he has given the big club so far. The scrappy Rhymes was aggressive on the base paths, and went 2-for-5.

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Time To Step Up: Detroit Tigers’ Big Bat Magglio Ordonez Out 6-8 Weeks

If losing Brandon Inge for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand wasn’t enough to rattle the Detroit Tigers, being without Magglio Ordonez’s bat surely is.

Ordonez, who had an ankle sprain to begin with, broke his foot while sliding into home during the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night.

It was the Tigers’ eighth loss in their last 10 games, and they are now 2.5 games behind the A.L. Central-leading Chicago White Sox.

The loss of Ordonez will weigh heavy on Jim Leyland’s club. Ordonez is hitting .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs this season.

During his post-game interview, Johnny Damon was asked if he thought he needed to flex his veteran-muscle, and step up in Ordonez’s absence.

“We all would like to do more than we do,” Damon told reporters. Damon, who is earning $8 million in his first season with Detroit, could provide the spark the Tigers are looking for.

Last year with the Yankees, Damon drove in 82 runs and hit 24 home runs. He has plenty of pop left in his bat, despite having just 29 RBIs and six home runs in 2010.

The July 31 MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and players are doing their best to dodge reporters’ questions in regards to bringing help to their club, which is another post in itself.

Will the Tigers go after the Chicago Cubs’ veteran pitcher Ted Lilly, or the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Dan Haren?

Will Detroit be in the market for a third baseman, starting pitcher or bullpen help?

Damon said he’s impressed with the youngsters’ contributions thus far, and said “We still have a good team… We’re still in this,” in reference to the team’s post-Ordonez state. He also said that he didn’t want them to feel pressured to produce.

Rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch hit the ground running this season. Jackson leads all A.L. rookies with 106 hits. He is developing as one the best young lead-off men in the majors.

Boesch is the clear front-runner for A.L. Rookie of the Year honors with his .313 batting average, 12 round-trippers and 50 runs driven in.

However, Boesch’s average has taken a nose-dive of late, and dropped over 30 points.

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Brandon Inge Out 4-6 Weeks as Detroit Tigers Lose Sixth Straight

The Detroit Tigers’ 8-6 extra-inning loss Monday to the A.L. West-leading Texas Rangers brought good and bad news.

Nelson Cruz hit a two-run-shot in the top of the 14th inning to give the Rangers a five-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, and ended the Rangers’ 11-game losing streak at Comerica Park.  That’s the good news—for the Rangers.

Detroit is now two back of the red-hot Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Central. That’s great news—for the Sox.

The bad news for Detroit is third baseman Brandon Inge will be out 4-6 weeks with a non-disclosed fracture in his left hand from what looked to be a breaking ball from Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman.

But the bad news doesn’t end there.

Brennan Boesch’s single with one out in the bottom of the 10th loaded the bases, and set the table for Carlos Guillen to drive in the game-winning run. Unfortunately for Guillen, he hit into a 6-4-3 double play, squandering a golden opportunity.

Or, maybe it was Johnny Damon who failed to seize the day by not heading home on Boesch’s single. Damon had two on in the bottom of the 12th and grounded out to short—another blown chance to put the pesky Rangers to rest.

However, Damon extended his hitting-streak to 10 games, which is the fourth-longest active streak, with an RBI-single in the eighth inning that scored Ramon Santiago and tied the game 6-6.

The good news is that the Tigers showed they could go head-to-head with an elite team after the All-Star Break—a break that left the Tigers broken. Even if it did take over four hours to do so.

Miguel Cabrera continued his Triple-Crown-esque season by launching two solo home runs off Feldman—one in the third, and one in the fifth—that were both pulled to left field. He also added three RBI. Had Cabrera avoided hitting two rockets into center, he would have had four round-trippers.

Cabrera is second among big-leaguers with 24 home runs, and first with 81 RBI.

Magglio Ordonez followed suit, and duplicated Cabrera’s swing in the fifth to tie the game 5-5. Ordonez is hitting a shade over .300, has 12 home runs on the year, and has driven-in 58 runs.

Rookie sensation Austin Jackson continues to amaze onlookers, not only with his glove, but with his bat. Jackson recorded his 100th hit, which is among league leaders, and tops for A.L. rookies.

However, Jackson did have two miscues in the field. He appeared to corral a shoe-lace high fly-ball in the sixth inning, but it got away.  Then, he barely missed the Rangers’ heavy-hitter Vlad Guerrero’s pop-fly in the bottom of the ninth.

The Tigers were swept last weekend in a four-game series by the A.L. Central bottom-dwelling Cleveland Indians, in a set that saw just eight Detroit runs. For some, the losses brought up late-season choke talk.

Hopefully, for the Tigers’ sake, the Indians will do them a favor by handling the Minnesota Twins this week.

But with the milestones achieved, or those being approached, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is forced to make some tough decisions with limited options at his disposal.

Either Don Kelly or Ryan Raburn will have to man the hot corner in Inge’s absence.

Both have had issues with their gloves. Raburn’s now-notorious performance last year in Game 163 against the Twins has Tigers fans less than confident in regards to Raburn’s ability to be counted on.

Kelly is still young, and has shown flashes of both sides of the coin when it comes to fielding.

Texas’ Tommy Hunter (6-0) will face Detroit’s Armando Galarraga (3-2), who is fresh off a rehab assignment with the Toledo Mud Hens, at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Comerica Park.

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Miguel Cabrera Could Pen Name in Detroit Tigers’ History Books

There is no questioning Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera’s effort in 2010.

Last season was marred by personal issues, and by all accounts, Cabrera has put his demons behind him this year.

Cabrera leads the majors with 77 RBI and a .346 batting average.

He’s tied for second with four others with 22 home runs. Cabrera has been a key component in the Tigers’ quest to win the AL Central, and they are a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox going into the All-Star break.

“My drinking was a problem and I feel good without it, I feel like a new man,” Cabrera told reporters last winter. “I never played drunk, but there were times when I was very tired or my body just felt lazy. I wake up every day and thank God for giving me the opportunity to do what I do.”

Cabrera is working a 19-game hit streak , which began June 19, and has driven in 18 runs in the process. He has cooled off a bit in the power department, and has just three home runs since late June.

With his recent All-Star Game selection, Cabrera, whether he knows it or not, has the potential to make history within the storied Detroit organization in regards to single-season RBI total.

In 1940, the legendary Hank Greenberg knocked in 150 runs. That is the third highest tally by a Tiger ever. The franchise-record is 183, which Greenberg set in 1937.

Being aware of a history-chase is often considered a bad omen for players. Having that pressure can interfere with their day-to-day operations, and more times than not, the mark isn’t met.

But that’s not the only record he’s chasing.

Cabrera has the opportunity to become the first Tiger since Ty Cobb to win the Triple Crown. Cobb claimed the coveted honor in 1909. He hit nine home runs, drove in 107 runs and hit .377.

Major League Baseball’s last Triple Crown winner was Carl Yastrzemski . The legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder hit .326, belted 44 home runs and drove in 121 runs in 1967.

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What Snub? Detroit Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander Named To All-Star Team

Last Thursday, Justin Verlander said he didn’t feel he was snubbed from the All-Star Game.

But due to outings by All-Star starters like New York’s CC Sabathia, Verlander was given the nod to represent Mo-Town in the midsummer classic.

Verlander’s numbers are comparable to those voted in, but during the process, his numbers weren’t up to par, he said. Verlander had an 8-5 record, and a 3.85 ERA. He explained how peers and managers select pitchers—position players are placed by fan-vote.

“I didn’t vote for myself, and I told everyone else not to,” Verlander said Thursday in Davison, Mich. “I didn’t feel like I was deserving…I did not feel like I was snubbed. There are other guys with better numbers than me that deserve to go.”

With a 7-3 win Friday over division-rival Minnesota, Verlander improved to 11-5 with a 3.82 ERA. He has won 10 of his last 13 decisions, and is a vital key to the Tigers’ AL Central title hopes. The White Sox leapfrogged the Tigers on Sunday, and lead the Central by a half-game.

Although the All-Star voting is designed with the fan in mind, Verlander said on multiple occasions that he thinks it could use reconfiguration.

“Obviously, you want the fans to be involved, it’s for the fans,” he said. “Now, it’s meaningful. It’s home-field advantage in the World Series. It’s huge. I think the Yankees will tell you that.

“For fans to have that much influence, and for it to mean that much, it’s something that needs to be addressed. For the most part, I think fans are pretty knowledgeable and right. But every now and again, they get something a little bit wrong.”

Verlander told the Detroit News he was happy to be honored, but being a replacement wasn’t what he had in mind.

“It’s obviously kind of a flawed system, in my opinion,” he said. “There are probably better ways to do it. This is the first year that they’ve done it this way, so I think there will probably be some adjustments made because it’s not easy for anybody who has a chance.

“You really don’t know what to prepare for.

“But the All-Star Game’s the All-Star Game no matter how you get there. Like I said earlier, when the time came for voting and stuff, I didn’t feel like I (deserved to) go. But I feel like since then I’ve thrown the ball pretty well. I wouldn’t be out of place there.

“It’s always an honor to have an opportunity to go and represent your team and represent this city so I’d definitely be excited.”

While Tigers fans debate on whether or not it would be wise for Verlander to pitch against the National League’s elite if he gets the chance, most applaud his nomination.

Verlander will join teammates Miguel Cabrera and Jose Valverde for the contest Tuesday night in Anaheim, Calif.

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Detroit-Oakland: Detroit’s Max Scherzer Dazzles As Tigers Cruise By A’s

It looks like Max Scherzer’s brief stint with the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens was just what he needed.

Scherzer dominated while in Toledo, and he looked to be in top form against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

The young right-handed pitcher blazed his way through the A’s lineup with 14 of 17 outs coming by way of strikeout.

And he was aided by his friends during his second big-league triumph.

Detroit’s offense perked up a bit, and the MoTowners downed the A’s 10-2 for the first win of the Memorial Day weekend series.

More importantly, there seems to be a little life in catcher Gerald Laird’s bat—even if for a game.

Laird did something Sunday that he has had trouble accomplishing lately—putting the ball in play.

He finished with two hits, one of which scored a run. On the other side of the coin, his excitement to be on base cost Jim Leyland’s club a base runner, as he was picked off by a sly move to first by A’s pitcher Dallas Braden .

In his second game back from the 15-day disabled list, second basemen Carlos Guillen made his return felt.

Guillen collected just one hit, which drove in a run, but his arm and glove are proving to be invaluable at the middle bag—a slot that he hasn’t played on regular basis in over a decade.

His presence in the infield has brought much needed relief to a position that has been weak for the Tigers.

Brandon Inge must be reading newspapers and Tigers blogs.

He looked like he was on a mission to dismiss his abysmal month-long hitting drought. May hasn’t been kind to Inge—he has just 13 hits in the month, 11 less than he did in April. Racking up three in the last week will likely boost his confidence in regard to swinging the stick.

The Tigers’ third baseman went 3-for-3, which included a home run in the fourth inning. The touch-em-all hit put the Tigers in cruise control on their way to their 26th win of the season.

And speaking of bats, Miguel Cabrera’s is hotter than the weather. Cabrera is on a maniacal pace in 2010, plating runs like it’s going out of style. He had four RBIs on Sunday and holds the top spot in the majors with 48, which is five better than Texas’ Vlad Guerrero.

The American League Central race appears to be a two-horse derby. The Minnesota Twins are nursing a three-game advantage, with Tigers slowly but surely gaining ground.


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Detroit-Oakland: While Cabrera Goes Yard Thrice, Tigers Lose Opener to Athletics

After what could be construed as a successful west-coast road trip, the Detroit Tigers came home Friday to face the Oakland A’s.

And lost 5-4.

Miguel Cabrera supplied all of the offense for Jim Leyland’s club.

Yes, all of it.

Each of the four runs the Tigers put on the board were due to Cabrera’s heavy bat. The three-round-tripper contest was the first for a Tiger since Dmitri Young did it against the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day in 2005.

After the offensive spectacle that was the opening game of the Tigers’ Memorial Day weekend series with the Athletics, Cabrera is the current RBI-leader in Major League Baseball with 44. He is tied for third in the bigs with 13 home runs.

We’ll have to see what Texas’ Vlad Guerrero ends up doing against the Twins tonight in regard to most runs driven in.

Dontrelle Willis was again inconsistent. So what’s new?

This is his third consecutive quality start. Those words are used in jest, of course.

The D-Train that is Willis gave up nine hits in just over five innings, and was pelted for three earned runs.

The Tigers’ bullpen wasn’t much of a help either. Phil Coke has been nearly automatic for much of the season, but he had a rough two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits to leave Ryan Perry in a predicament.

Perry then pegged Oakland’s Mark Ellis to load the bases. It was game, set and match after that.

On the bright side, Detroit’s resident-DL second baseman Carlos Guillen has made his triumphant return. Danny Worth, who played just eight games for Leyland was sent packing to Triple-A Toledo to clear a spot on the roster for Guillen.

Guillen, who is coming off a hamstring injury, looked like the player of old. He was quick, his glove and arm were strong, and he even managed to turn two a couple of times.

He adds another potent bat to the lineup, something that the Tigers are in desperate need of right about now.

Brandon Inge has been on a month-long slide, and catcher Alex Avila and shortstop Adam Everett can’t buy a hit.

They’re suffering from a virus that tends to strike clubhouses when a team is a race for first. It’s diagnosis can be tricky, but physicians have dubbed it “can’t-hit-for-crap-itis.” Hopefully Leyland gets his boys vaccinated.

And soon.

The Tigers are 25-22, and two games behind American League Central leading Minnesota Twins.

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Detroit Tigers Show Their Grit By Avoiding Sweep In Los Angeles

Meatloaf said it best: “two out of three ain’t bad.”

Well, in the case of Rick Porcello and the Detroit Tigers, one out of three isn’t too shabby either.

Porcello pitched steadily Sunday, and helped his club avoid being swept by the defending National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers with its 6-2 win.

The Tigers’ sophomore hurler threw 101 pitches (64 strikes) in six innings and recorded two strikeouts.

He scattered nine hits, but the Dodgers’ offense was unable to capitalize with runners on.

The second-year star in the making earned his fourth win of the season, and exhibited that the front-end of Detroit’s rotation is becoming solid and reliable.

The bats of Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera are alive and well.

And that’s a great sign for the Motor City faithful. 

Cabrera homered in the first inning, his 10th of the year, which plated Ordonez.

Ordonez followed suit in the eighth inning with a solo-shot, his sixth home run thus far.

The Tigers are 25-19, just one game back of Minnesota in the A.L. Central.

If there were a checklist for success that one would draft to measure the Tigers’ worth, it might look something like this.

1. Solid pitching. Of course, that’s were any club’s momentum stems from. A team is only as consistent as its guys on the mound.

Justin Verlander and Porcello have the potential to be one of the American League’s top one-two tandems. That will be a load that Porcello will shoulder, but the possibility is there.

Porcello lacks the blazing arsenal possessed by Verlander, and he has lost two of his last three decisions.

But the focus should be on what he’s capable of. In 2009, he was considered one of the American League’s elite rookie pitchers.

Verlander, who can keep his velocity and control into late innings, has dazzled in the first quarter of the 2010 campaign.

A solid bullpen is also an advantage. And the Tigers have one. Although it’s overworked at times, Phil Coke, Eddie Bonine, and Ryan Perry get the job done.

And there’s always Papa Grande, Detroit’s exuberant closer Jose Valverde, who has 11 saves.

The cream always rises to the top, and that’s what he’s done—in impressive fashion at that.

Valverde’s celebrations are a reminder that the era of passionate players is far from dead.

2. Lead-off men. Austin Jackson and Johnny Damon know how to get on base. Although Jackson has hit in the No. 1 spot for the majority of the season, Damon is another viable option.

In his career, he has a .289 batting average when leading off.

He quickly became a fan favorite with his walk-off dinger in Detroit’s 3-2 triumph over the Angels on May 1. He proved that there is a little life left in that aging arm of his with his bullet of a throw that kept Hideki Matsui honest the same day.

3. The heart of the order. Well, that one is easy. Cabrera, Ordonez and Brennan Boesch are a pitcher’s nightmare. Boesch is one of Jim Leyland’s up-and-comers, and has displayed his big-league worthiness since coming up April 23.

4. Young talent. Does the name Jackson ring a bell? He’s easily the front runner for AL Rookie of the Year. He set a Tiger record for most hits in first 100 at-bats with 37. His pace has shown no signs of slowing down.

Room for improvement: This one is like beating a dead horse.

Catchers Alex Avila and Gerald Laird need to show resolve at the plate. The same can be said for third baseman Brandon Inge, who has just 10 hits this month, and five since May 10.

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Dontrelle Willis Dull As Detroit Tigers Fall To Los Angeles Dodgers

Dontrelle Willis just can’t seem to get on an even keel.

It’s a problem that he’s had since he arrived in Detroit two years ago.

There have been times that he has looked like the D-Train of old, back in his Florida Marlin days, when he was a fan favorite.

And more times than not, he appears as the secondary piece of the Miguel Cabrera deal.

Just like he did in the Tigers 4-1 loss to defending National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

Most Tiger fans have “at least we have Miggy” in their minds, and look at Willis like a gift that one pretends to like.

“Thanks for the pair of socks. Of course I like them as much as my new iPad.”

To pinpoint an exact moment when Willis began to unravel wouldn’t be a difficult task. 

It was the fifth inning when he threw yet another wild pitch, and gave up two runs.

After he surrendered a single that subsequently put the Dodgers in scoring position, Manny Ramirez, who feasts with runners on, beamed a missile at Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge.

Inge couldn’t corral the liner, and another run crossed the plate.

Perhaps it’s Willis’ history with Dodger-blue that came into play.

It’s no enigma—he just can’t make it happen against Los Angeles’ second favorite team.

In seven career starts against Los Angeles, he has compiled a massive 6.93 ERA, and routinely gets beat like a pinata at a child’s birthday party.

Armando Galarraga (1-0, 1.59 ERA) is slated to take the hill at 4:10 p.m Saturday, and the inter-league series will come to a close Sunday.

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Is It Too Early To Call The Detroit Tigers One Of MLB’s Best Teams?

The Detroit Tigers are fresh off two wins in M.C. Hammer’s old stomping grounds—Oakland, Cal.

Justin Verlander was dominant Wednesday night against the Athletics, and Miguel Cabrera, who bats .349 against the A.L. West, broke his 0-11 slump with a round tripper Thursday.

So far so good.

Detroit (24-17) finds itself in familiar territory—battling with Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins for top billing in the American League Central.

Tiger fans have seen this before, and then waited for the walls to come crashing down.

But is this year different? Is it too early to get excited about contention?

With the way that rookies Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch have been playing lately, it’s within reason to say that Jim Leyland’s club has two legitimate A.L. Rookie of the Year candidates.

Yes, it’s early.

But it’s hard to deny the pair.

Especially Jackson. He’s amongst the league leaders in hits, and is nearly automatic when it comes to getting on base.

And he has the “hustle” quality, unlike a Florida Marlin that has been in the news recently.

Boesch, well, he has to work on his glove above all. He has committed three errors in 17 games, and that has the potential to overshadow his prominence at the plate.

Verlander, Cabrera and Jose Valverde are in the top-five in vital categories that pertain to their respective positions.

Cabrera is tops in Major League baseball with 38 RBIs, and fifth in the A.L. with a .340 batting average.

Verlander is second in the league in wins with five.

Valverde, the animated “Papa Grande” himself, has 11 saves, which is good enough for fourth best in the majors.

Hot players. Hot stats. Hot team?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

We’re just over 40 games into the 162-game season, but it’s not too early to pile the Tigers in the league’s elite category.

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