As Hawk Harrelson would say if he weren’t limited to moans and groans at the moment, the Tigers have owned the White Sox this year. They rallied from three runs down in the ninth and prevailed 6-5 in the 10th today, giving them a 12th straight victory.
It’s the longest winning streak by a team this year and the longest for the Tigers since 1934. They finished the season series with the White Sox winning 13 out of 18 games.
Alex Avila, who didn’t start, and Carlos Guillen, who hadn’t started in 11 days, were the heroes in this one. Serving as a pinch-hitter for just the second time this year, Avila hit a game-tying two-run homer off Sergio Santos in the ninth. Guillen homered in the second and delivered the go-ahead single in the 10th as part of a 3-for-5 days.
The comeback denied Dylan Axelrod a victory in his first major league start. He left with a 5-2 lead after striking out eight in six innings. Tigers starter Brad Penny gave up all five White Sox runs. Four of them were unearned, but it was Penny’s own error that preceded the runs.
Avila’s homer was his 19th and gave him 77 RBI on the season. Miguel Cabrera is the second Tiger expected to get some down-ballot MVP votes this year, but I’m not sure Avila isn’t more deserving. He’s played in 128 games this season and has a .919 OPS. The only primary catcher within even 100 points of OPS of him is Atlanta’s Brian McCann at .841.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉