Playoff hopes alive as Tigers players rebound

Detroit Tigers Anibal Sanchez pitches in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. (Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

The Detroit Tigers are still in the playoff hunt. Two weeks ago, it appeared as if they had all but given up on the playoffs, but in the last seven days, it looks like an entirely different team has taken over. Prince Fielder has found his swing again, the starting pitchers have just about gotten back to their good form and the bottom of the order is swinging the bat.

Miguel Cabrera is easily the most successful Tiger this year. If the season ended today, he would win the Triple Crown award. That award goes to the player who leads the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. As of press date, he is batting .331 with 42 home runs and 133 runs batted in, after playing 152 games.

In the last week, Prince Fielder has been swinging a hot bat. He is hitting .391 with an on-base percentage of .500, which means that in all of his at bats he has gotten on base either by walking or getting a hit exactly half of the time. In that same period, outfielder Avisail Garcia is hitting .533 with a SLG of .500.

Garcia was called up in late August from Double-A Erie, and if the team should make the playoffs, he would be eligible to make the playoff roster.

Max Scherzer has been struggling in the last week. He has started two games and is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA. He left the first of those two starts with a shoulder injury and looks as if he hasn’t healed completely. On the flip side, Justin Verlander, who was struggling a few weeks ago, seems to have found his rhythm again. He is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in that same two start period.

The bullpen is the one thing that has consistently been struggling of late and the problem is mainly with the two left handed relief pitchers that manager Jim Leyland has been using late in games, Phil Coke and Darin Downs. In the last week Coke has allowed three runs on four hits in his last inning and two thirds. Downs is doing little better, allowing four runs on six hits over his last three and two thirds innings pitched in the same period of time.

As of press date, they Tigers are only half a game behind the Chicago White Sox for the division title. They have nine games remaining: three against the Kansas City Royals, and then they finish the season on the road with three in Minnesota and three in Kansas City.

The White Sox don’t have an easy path to the end of the season, with one game remaining in a home series against the Cleveland Indians, and then take to the road for four games against AL East powerhouse Tampa Bay Rays and finish the season with three games in Cleveland against the Indians.

The Tigers can very easily win the division, but the bullpen needs to shape up in order to make any real playoff run successful.

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