Detroit Tigers play above-.500 ball 2 months in a row under AJ Hinch: ‘We can be winners’

Detroit Free Press

For the first time since 2016, the Detroit Tigers have consecutive months with a winning record.

As if Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep — the franchise’s first against Cleveland since Aug. 7, 1986 and its first sweep in Cleveland since Sept. 14, 1997 — wasn’t enough, securing a 9-4 win in Game 1 and a 7-1 victory in Game 2 pushed the Tigers to a 14-13 record during June.

They also finished 14-13 in May. The last time the Tigers had back-to-back winning months was August and September 2016, the end of four straight winning months that season.

“It’s what we’re trying to do,” manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday. “You want as many wins as you can get each month, and then you total them up at the end of the year and see where you’re at. The expectation for us to have winning months has to be the norm. … We need six good, winning months to make it to the playoffs.

“The mindset is good here. These guys care, and we’ve proved in back-to-back months that we can be winners.”

VERLANDER TALKS: Inside Justin Verlander’s MVP season & his thoughts on a reunion with Tigers

FIRST WINNING MONTH: How the Tigers embraced AJ Hinch’s ‘winning culture’ in May

FARM SYSTEM: How the Tigers’ top 3 hitting prospects are giving off a ‘Roar of 84’ vibe already

At the halfway point of the season, the Tigers (36-45) sit in third place of the American League Central. They’re eight games behind Cleveland and 12 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox.

But that’s their best mark at the halfway point since the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when they also had 36-45 records.

“It’s fantastic,” catcher Eric Haase said. “Just to have winning months, it seems like there’s been a cloud following us around, getting our footing now and climbing up slowly but surely. It’s just a matter of staying in every single game.”

The Tigers are 27-21 since May 8.

Even when the Tigers lost five of six games to start May, they responded by winning nine of their next 11. A similar bounce-back occurred in June. After being swept by the White Sox in three games June 11-13, Hinch’s squad responded by bringing out their brooms against the Kansas City Royals in the next series.

And when the Los Angeles Angels handed the Tigers three straight losses, Detroit answered by winning seven of 10 games to close out June. The Tigers would be in striking distance of a wild card spot if not for their putrid April: 8-19 record with a minus-58 run differential. (They’re currently 11 games back.)

“It doesn’t seem to linger around,” Haase said. “We’re able to bounce back pretty fast. It’s a really light clubhouse. The coaching staff is awesome to play for. As long as we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves, we bounce back pretty fast.”

[ Tigers ‘might look into the free agent market’ for a shortstop. Here’s why ]

Right-hander Wily Peralta notched his first win as a starting pitcher since April 26, 2017, leading the Tigers to a Game 2 win. .

Peralta, a 32-year-old veteran, pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2012-17. While the Brewers never made the playoffs during this span, the team had three seasons above a .500 winning percentage and four above a .450 winning percentage.

NOTEBOOK: What Tigers outfielder Derek Hill thinks about demotion to Triple-A Toledo

MORE NOTES: Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull makes progress during injury rehab in Lakeland

The Tigers, meanwhile, have not finished above a .400 winning percentage since 2016, which has led to three last-place finishes in the AL Central in the past four years.

“We have a really young group that’s hungry to perform,” Peralta said. “We’re very together in the clubhouse, and I think that translates to the field. We’re trying to have fun. There are a lot of young kids, and they just want to show that they belong here.

“They’re doing a great job.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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