Back in 2003 (yes, the Tigers did play that season), Jeremy Bonderman made his debut. While nobody ever admitted it, I had the feeling that Bonderman got wheeled out there prematurely because management thought he might have a good season and be a draw for home games a la Mark Fidrych. That never panned out, but this year the Tigers have not one, but two rookie sensations. One of those rookies threw eight shutout innings today and he gave up only three hits with no walks while striking out seven. Justin Verlander is now 10-4 and we’re at the half way point of the season and what’s funny is now that we have a phenom of our own, he’s being overshadowed by what the team is doing.
The win today was the Tigers 11th shutout of the season, the most they’ve put up in a season since 1978 when they had twelve. If they get two more, which seems likely, you’d have to go back to 1969 when they had 18.
Not to be overshadowed by Verlander was Nate Robertson’s outing on Tuesday against Roger Clemens. He outlasted the future Hall of Famer and while he got into trouble in the seventh and had a runner on third with nobody out, Jim Leyland let him pitch out of it and he got rewarded with a win. Robertson threw seven shutout innings and he gave up six hits and three runs. Out of the regular starters, Robertson has the best ERA with 3.14, which is good for third in the American League behind Johan Santana and Roy Halladay.
With the shutout today, the Tigers have a team ERA of 3.45. If the season finished today, that would be the best team ERA the team’s posted since, yet again, 1969 (3.32).
1984 happened a long time ago but everyone remembers their 35-5 start. What a lot of people don’t remember is that they were equally mediocre over their next 40 games and went through that stretch with an even 20-20 record. If the Tigers win their game on Friday against the Pirates, they’ll have matched the 1984 Tigers’ record (55-25) through the first 80 games.
The Pirates are on deck, and if they lose today against the White Sox, it’ll be their 13th straight loss. Normally I’d say the Tigers will be the Tigers and they’ll drop two of three, but this isn’t your usual Tiger team. I see them following the White Sox and taking at least two of three, if not sweeping the weekend series. Then the Tigers head out west for six games before the All Star Break.