On Friday night, Justin Verlander won again. It’s so common now, you just take it for granted. He’s 21-5. It’s remarkable. Remember, that 20th victory came before September 1st. He has carried the Tigers the entire season, going 15-3 in games after loses. That, in and of itself, might be the most important stat of his marvelous season.
Yet the Tiger’s have been a more than a one trick pony. As a matter of fact, everyone, at one time or another, has done their part to get this team to the 15 game over .500 it sits at heading into tonight’s series finale against the White Sox. Miguel Cabrera has been a rock. He’s hitting over .300. He’ll hit his 30 homers. He’ll get his 100 RBI. He’ll walk-off to cap a 7 run comeback. He isn’t mentioned much because of what Verlander is doing, and because his success is taken for granted.
But he and JV haven’t been alone. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila have been solid all season. Peralta has been right around the .310 mark the majority of the summer and has only committed 7 errors. Avila has stayed close to .300 all year as well, and his play behind the plate has been a just great.
Victor Martinez started slowly and wound up on the disable list. When he went out, his average was under .200. He came back on fire and never really slowed down. Now he’s fourth in the American League in hitting. People are concerned with his power numbers. That’s fair. Watch him run to first. He can’t. Sure the power numbers would be great, but the fact is, you can’t pitch around Cabrera to get to V-Mart. He’s going to hurt you too.
Austin Jackson was also hitting below .200 into May. Now he’s a hair under .260, and he’s also got 9 homers on the year. In his last 6 games alone, Jackson is 16-29. His turn around has been crucial.
Actually, that’s how much of the help has come this season, in fits and starts. When Carlos Guillen first came off of the DL, he provided a big lift in a series over the Angels. Roman Santiago hit a walk off this week and has found himself as the everyday second baseman. Even Brandon Inge hit 2-4 and a long ball in his return from Toledo to lead the Tigers over the Indians.
It’s not just the guys that have been around a long time either. Delmon Young has hits in 16 of his 19 games as a Tiger. He also has contributed 16 RBIs. Doug Fister is 3-1 since coming over from Seattle, while his ERA has stayed pretty consistent. He’s only given up 3 runs in his last 21 plus innings as well.
The kids are alright too. Andy Dirks is hitting a respectable .257 with power (6 home runs). Brennan Boesch, though struggling badly as of late, is still hitting over .280 with 16 long balls. Best case scenario for him, the struggles are due to injury, and a disabled list stint will help cure what ails him.
Ryan Raburn is doing his typical second half reappearing act. Joaquin Benoit has gotten better every month. Jose Valverde is perfect in save situations. There is no shortage of people contributing.
The best news of all is the growing divisional lead. But this is the key time. Not just because it’s September; because this is the time of the year the Tigers have always seemed to start to fade. The hope has to remain that as long as everyone is contributing, then the team as a whole will keep on winning…right into October.