Our Tigers are now 42-36 and have a full one game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central. We fans have witnessed two great games in a row, in which our two biggest stars have come through in outstanding fashion. On Saturday we saw Justin Brooks Verlander continue his year of amazing-ness, striking out 14 (14!!!!) and going eight innings while allowing only 4 hits. The next day we saw Sparky Anderson's number retired in an emotional ceremony and then watched Miguel Cabrera be clutch--again--while driving in the game-winning runs in the bottom of the eighth.
As great as these two are, and as much as we should appreciate their skills, we do have to remember that others on our team have been making significant contributions as well. In fact, we would argue that without certain players stepping up and filling in key supporting roles, we wouldn't be winning the Central right now.
Austin Jackson-The Catalyst. Despite his pretty bad day at the plate yesterday (4 strikeouts-yeeeeesh), Ajax has been hitting well lately, and whenever he's on, the whole team follows. Obviously nothing needs to be said about his defense. We all know how good he is at that.
Victor Martinez-The Quiet Leader. More than a few Tigers have commented on how good a leader V-Mart is. He seems to lead both in the clubhouse and on the field, and it is great to see him get all emotional and riled up whenever he delivers a clutch hit or slides dramatically into home. He also has helped out a bunch of younger players (Jackson, Alex Avila) with their offensive swings this year.
Alex Avila-Pitcher's Compliment. Verlander is obviously an amazing pitcher, and Max Scherzer is getting a lot of work done, too. However, people tend to forget that not only is Alex Avila kicking ass and taking names at the plate, he is also helping out our stellar starters behind it. He is a genuinely good guy, too, and deserves perhaps more than anyone on this team (save Verlander) to start the All-Star Game. If you haven't voted yet, vote!
Juh-honny Peralta: The Comeback Kid. No one, especially us, thought Juh-honny would be an offensive asset this year, especially coming out of Spring Training. Not only is he hitting over .300 but he also has the best fielding percentage of all shortstops in the American League. Quite a departure from his lackluster seasons the past few years.
Brennan Boesch-The Comeback Kid Pt. 2. After his miserable second-half last year, many wondered, including us, if Baby B was just a fluke. He has (hopefully) proven us wrong again, hitting close to .300 and getting on base whether he's hitting 2nd, 3rd, 6th, or wherever.
Max Scherzer-All I Do Is Win. What is it about Mad Max? He gets on the mound, we score runs. Period. Sometimes he doesn't deserve the win, but why quibble? A guy like that is always an asset to the team, and his W-L record shows it. Hopefully he can get win number 10 tonight.
Jose Valverde-The Stopper. Despite him giving us a few heart-attacks this season, Papa Grande has not blown a save this year, not a one. Perhaps he wasn't as completely dominant as he was last season, but he gets the job done, and acts like a rock star while doing it.
Al Alburquerque-The Surprise. This guy isn't just having a few good outings--he is consistently making batters look like assholes as they miss his sinker by feet. He is on pace for a ridiculous number of strikeouts this year, and he has only let one runner he has inherited score. Oh, and he's 5-1. No one expected this out of him, which is part of what makes him so amazing.
Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Casper Wells, Andy Dirks-Supporting Players Extraordinaire. Though many people have issues with one or more of the Tigers above, we love them all. They have consistently stepped in this year and delivered. All of them! Though we may mock Don Kelly for his sometime unfortunate hitting skills, his defense is not to be ignored, and lately he has been coming through in the clutch.
Ryan Raburn-The Comic Relief. This has to be the reason he's starting all the time. Jim Leyland must love to get a good laugh in, right? There can't be any other reason, right?!?!
So, as much as Verlander and Cabrera deserve to be credited for getting us into first place (and believe us, they deserve a lot of that credit!) the Tigers mentioned above are vital to our success, too. We're liking the look of this team a lot, and not just the physical one. A few pieces aside, we seem to be on track to be serious, serious contenders in our division (fingers crossed!).