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This Week In The AL Central Tigers Face Tough Stretch

The Detroit Tigers have been the early feel good story of the 2006 baseballáseason, but the most obvious questions persist, as with any team that's been out of the limelight for years and years

First off, are they for real?

Second, can they keep this up for 162 games?

We're about to find out - and soon.

The Tigers have started one of their most critical stretches of the season, playing 13 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox and Blue Jays, four teams who seem certain to be battling for division titles or wild card spots with the Tigers all season.

With this critical stretch ahead, the Tigers have suddenly stopped hitting. Randy Johnson and the Yankees shut them out 4-0 Monday, and they were blanked in Cleveland on Sunday as well.

With this important juncture ahead, Manager Jim Leyland knows his ball club needs to start hitting, but he isn't panicking.

"Every time you don't score doesn't mean you're doing something wrong,'' Leyland said. "Sometimes you've got to credit the other team.

It's normally a combination of just missinga couple of pitches and looking for something (from the pitcher) and getting something else. We'll be fine.''

The Tigers have been red-hot since Leyland's mini-tirade on April 17, when he criticized everyone, himself included, for a lackadaisical effort.

After a 7-7 start, Detroit then won 28 of 35 games to post the best record in baseball prior to Sunday's shutout.

The Tigers still have the best record, but the White Sox are just 1 1/2 games behind. Have no fear Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson said, they are in it for the long haul.

"Our fans want a team that plays hard day in and day out, and that's what we're trying to do,'' he said last week. "There's a lot of baseball still to be played, and we just need to concentrate on what we're doing and not
worry about all the other stuff.''

The White Sox continue to harass the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

Chicago won 11-0 Monday, giving the White Sox 11 wins in their past 13 tries at the Jake. The Indians, preseason favorites of many to win this division, are now 10 1/2 games off the pace and show no signs of competing on an everyday basis.

Outside of C.

C. Sabathia, who faces Mark Buerhle tonight ( line on game: White Sox +120); the Tribe isn't getting a consistent starting pitching.

The difference? The White Sox didn't stand pat over the winter. General Manager Kenny Williams was aggressive, trading for Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez.

All Thome has done so far is hit 10 homers in April and 10 more already in May. Vazquez allowed only two hits in six innings Monday and has given the White Sox even more depth in their rotation.

And even though it's a little early to be scoreboard watching, you can bet the White Sox are curious to see how the Tigers handle this difficult stretch.

The Twins won six of eight before losing Monday to the Angels, and they getting some better starting pitching, something that was lacking earlier in the year. Johan Santana is rounding into form again and rookie Boof Bonser (now, legally, his real name) has been impressive in his first two starts.

The odds are against the Twins with so much ground to make up, but you can't quite write them off yet.

The Royals are COMPLETELY written off. After having already posted 11-game and 13-game losing streaks, the Royals at 12-37 are on pace to challenge the 1962 Mets for the worst record ever.

Give them some credit, however. They have won two of the first four games on their 10-game road swing, quite an accomplishment considering they started the season 2-19 on the road.

Article Source:


Tom Brew Contributing Writer. .



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