Fans are showing up to watch Detroit Tigers win … and not talk about playoffs

Detroit Free Press

Go ahead. Take a peek at the baseball standings and let yourself dream. It’s OK. I promise.

The Detroit Tigers aren’t too far off the American League Central Division lead. So maybe if they keep it going, maybe if they catch a few breaks, maybe if the pitching gets better and they find more power, maybe — just maybe — they’ll lead the division after the opening week for the first time since 2014, when they last won it.

That’s nine years, people. So, yeah. You’d better believe it’s OK to let yourself believe a little in this team, because these moments aren’t guaranteed to come around very often.

And no one’s going to hold it against you if you traffic in a little hope and start watching the scoreboards and standings before we even get to June.

Well, almost no one, because A.J. Hinch doesn’t want to hear anything about standings right now. He’ll tolerate some standings talk from reporters, but he won’t be very political with players if they bring it up.

TROUBLE AHEAD? Tigers place Eduardo Rodriguez on 15-day injured list with hurt left index finger

MOVING AND SHAKING: Tigers acquire outfielder Jake Marisnick in trade with Chicago White Sox

“Well, I’ll tell you this,” the Tigers manager said as he sat in the dugout shadows at Comerica Park before Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers. “There’s always something to play for.

“But if a player starts talking about standings to me, I’m very PC with you guys about reacting to questions on the standings. Not so much with the players. I don’t want to hear anything from the players about the standings.”

Yes, of course. Managers are necessarily myopic and tend to think looking past the tips of their noses is looking too far ahead.

But fans and observers aren’t players, though they can sniff out a good story — or at least a refreshingly different story when we get a good whiff. And players got a good whiff of the media contingent in the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.

“The media’s doubled the last month,” one player noted.

Blame the Tigers’ 15-10 record in May before Tuesday, when they trailed the division-leading Minnesota Twins by two games. Go ahead and guess the last time the Tigers won 15 games in a month. Seriously, take a guess. I’ll wait.

Chances are you were more than a few years off the answer: May 2018. Half a decade.

The Tigers weren’t even this good during the end of the 2021 season, when they got everyone’s hopes up like the people who sold tickets to the Titanic. Even then, the best they could do in ’21 was 14 wins in a month, though they did that four times.

“We’re having fun and it’s been amazing,” catcher Jake Rogers said. “And the more you have fun I think the easier it is to win.

“So hopefully we can turn May into a good June and obviously June into July and take it day-by-day, like the old cliché says.”

On the day the Tigers announced one of the biggest blows of the season, losing ace Eduardo Rodriguez to a left finger injury for possibly a lengthy period, the clubhouse was still upbeat and encouraged. Tarik Skubal (left elbow strain) threw batting practice to a few hitters and Matt Manning (right foot fracture) threw a bullpen off the game mound — both signs they could be nearing the road back to pitching in Detroit.

The Tigers also placed right fielder Matt Vierling (low back soreness) on the 10-day injury list and called up Tyler Nevin from Triple-A Toledo. Nevin captured the clubhouse vibe perfectly when he said, “I’m excited to be a part of meaningful games and be right in the thick of things.”

It certainly feels that way to fans. The Tigers’ attendance of 69,030 from Friday through Sunday during their four-game set against the White Sox was their largest at Comerica for three games since their home-opening series against Boston.

“Yeah, it’s been great,” Rogers said. “We’ve had really good attendance lately. You know, they’ve been into it. Last couple games have been really into it.

“So, I mean, that’s awesome. And media presence is always good. So, yeah, I think the more we win, the more people will come around, which is obviously what you want.”

Winning, of course, doesn’t happen in a vacuum and what the Tigers are doing isn’t a fluke. They’re doing what team president Scott Harris has asked them to do: dominate the strike zone on both sides of the ball.

“Our confidence has been high,” Hinch said. “I think our style of play is the reason. We’ve really played the game of baseball better.

“We’ll have our bad games here or there, we’ll miss a play. We generally don’t overreact to that stuff. We also don’t overreact to sweeping a series or winning two out of three. And I think that consistent mindset has been really good.”

TIGERS NEWSLETTER: Memorial Day mark a reminder of brighter times for Tigers

If the Tigers are able to keep from overreact, that will serve them well while they wait for their ace to return. Even though they know what’s at stake and why people keep showing up to watch try to elbow their way to the top of the standings — a place their manager doesn’t want to acknowledge even exists.

“It’s obviously that day-by-day mentality: who we’re facing today, who we got on the mound, game-planning stuff like that,” Rogers said. “But yeah, obviously, you know, what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish and let’s get to the playoffs.

“There’s always that bigger picture. But it’s easier to kind of aim small, miss small. Look into the moment and then worry about (rest) moving forward.”

That makes a lot of sense. For players and their manager. For the rest of us? Just imagine what the standings could look like in a week, when the Tigers have a favorable series in Philadelphia, while the Twins travel to Tampa Bay, the best team in baseball.

Go ahead. Let yourself dream.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

Articles You May Like

AL Central Notes: Francona, Twins, Tigers
Game Story: Kelly launches two-run homer ▶️
Baddoo helps honor Miggy’s final homestand with 443-foot HR
AL Central Notes: Twins, Baez, Arias
Tigers 6, Royals 3: The Tigers are Akil Baddoo’ing their best

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *