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Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
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Tigers roaring down stretch

The Detroit Tigers were a middling team throughout the first three months of the Major League Baseball regular season. Then, without warning, Detroit became a legitimate factor in the American League playoff picture.

After hovering around .500 for the longest time, the Tigers caught fire with eight consecutive wins toward the end of July. Then, after losing the series finale to the Chicago White Sox, Detroit got back on track Friday by beating Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets. Going into the weekend, Brad Ausmus’s club is sitting two games behind the Cleveland Indians for the lead in the AL Central and only a percentage point behind the Boston Red Sox for the second and last Wild Card spot.

The charge in Detroit has come from both at the plate and on the mound. After years of looking like a shell of his former self, Justin Verlander has become one of the best pitchers in baseball once more. Verlander is 12-6 with a 3.52 ERA with 164 strikeouts, leading the team in all categories. Meanwhile, Michael Fulmer continues to be a revelation for the Motor City cats, winning nine games while posting a 2.42 ERA. The starting rotation is weak beyond that duo, but Verlander and Fulmer are enough at the moment.

Offensively, the attack is much more diverse. Detroit has been relying on Miguel Cabrera since the dawn of the decade, and 2016 is no exception. After a bit of a slow start, Cabrera is leading the team with a .310 average to go with 25 home runs and 71 RBI, also team-highs. Victor Martinez has bounced back from a rough 2015, hitting  .301 with 19 blasts and 64 RBI, providing some protection for one of the best hitters in baseball history. Veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler is also having a fine year, batting .291 with 21 home runs and 60 runs batted in.

Overall, the Tigers are a team that relies heavily on the home run and just enough pitching on days when Verlander and Fulmer are in the dugout. Detroit has to have big blast because the speed on the basepaths is non-existent, having only two players with more than 10 stolen bases.

Ultimately, it remaisn to be seen if the arms on Detroit can keep the good times rolling. The Tigers are on the fringe of the postseason, but can they do enough with only two quality starters and a good closer in Francisco Rodriguez? On the plus side, the teams in the wild card race don’t have great rotations. However, Cleveland is stacked in that department with five good arms.

With a little less than two months to go, the Tigers are going to give us plenty to watch down the stretch.

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