Tigers are back on the right path

New Tigers infielder Omar Infante throws to first on Tuesday night.(REUTERS)

New Tigers infielder Omar Infante throws to first on Tuesday night.(REUTERS)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:19 AM ET

Through the opening three months of the season, one of the top topics on conversation in baseball was: What’s wrong with the Tigers?

Having made a quality and expensive upgrade in the off-season when they signed free agent Prince Fielder, the Tigers were expected to waltz to the division championship in the Central.

Instead of waltzing, though, the Tigers were sleep-walking and it wasn’t until July rolled around that they awoke from their deep sleep.

The Tigers have finally turned it on as they have gone 8-3 in their past 11 and, heading into Friday night’s game against Cleveland, were tied for first in the Central with the Chicago White Sox.

Not satisfied with his team, Tigers general manager Dave Drombowski made a move on Monday when he added help to the starting rotation in the acquisition of Anibal Sanchez and solidified the mess that has been second base with the re-acquisition of Omar Infante. The trade with the Miami Marlins cost the Tigers three minor-league prospects.

“We made this move because we’re trying to win this season,” Dombrowski said.

The Tigers may still be looking to upgrade their club before the July 31 trade deadline but there is little doubt that Sanchez and Infante make Detroit better right now.

The Jays will be the first team to see what Sanchez brings as they face him on Saturday in his Tigers debut.

This marks the first time in his career that Sanchez finds himself on a team in the post-season hunt and the Tigers are looking only for steady if unspectacular starts.

For Infante, it’s truly a homecoming. The infielder signed with Detroit as a teenager in 1999 and spent six seasons with the big-league club before being traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2007. He was in his second season with the Marlins.

“I’m back home,” Infante told Detroit reporters. “I have a lot of friends here.”

Offensively, he figures on giving the Tigers an upgrade as this season the various second basemen had combined for a .201.

“He’s a very legitimate player,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Infante. “I’ve always liked him. He’s very professional.”

Hot

— 3B Miguel Cabrera is currently on an eight-game hitting streak where he is batting .345 (10-for-29).
— RHP Brayan Villarreal has posted a 1.20 ERA (15 innings, two earned runs) with 18 strikeouts over his past 12 outings.
— SS Jhonny Peralta has been hitting .301 (25-for-83) with six doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs over his past 22 games.

Cold

— LHP Duane Below, over his past five appearances which includes one start, has allowed seven earned runs on 20 hits and three walks in 11.2 innings for a 5.40 ERA.
—1B Prince Fielder is hitting .354 (11-for-31) over his past 10 games so why is he in this column? Over that stretch, the slugger has not hit a home run and has driven in just five runs.
— INF/OF Ryan Raburn is hitting just .132 (5-for-38) over his past 12 games.

Rutsey's Take

At the start of the season, everybody believed the Tigers would win the Central Division by 100 games. After sleeping-walking through the opening three months, they have finally started to growl, going 14-3 in their past 17 games. In this three-game series, the Jays caught a terrific break — and they need plenty — as they will not have to face the Tigers top two starters in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

PREDICTION

The Jays are tough to figure out. They get swept in New York, sweep the Red Sox in Boston. Back home, they get pasted by Oakland. History shows the Jays bounce back, we figure they’ll win two of three.
 


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