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|The Detroit Tigers certainly weren’t supposed to be here at this stage of the major league season. Not at all.
Only a season after finishing 38 games behind in the American League Central with a 64-98 record and a veteran roster led by one of the major league’s highest-paid players in Miguel Cabrera Anthony Averett Jersey , they’re 36-37 and are right behind Cleveland in the division.
If they can beat the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday night, the Tigers — these no-name Tigers — would be at .500 for the first time since early April.
And it’s not so much how they’re doing it — with surprisingly strong pitching and a better-than-expected offense — but the players they’re doing it with. Even with Cabrera out for the rest of the season with a ruptured biceps tendon, they’ve won five in a row and six of eight with a not-well-known cast.
Not that they care.
“We just go out there and try to get every single win. That’s it. We got close (to the Indians) a couple of weeks ago and then we’re here again,” center fielder Leonys Martin told reporters after a three-game weekend sweep of the White Sox in Chicago. “We only care about getting every single game. That’s it.”
The Detroit bullpen has been especially good behind a surprisingly efficient starting pitching staff, allowing only one run and 12 hits in 17 1/3 innings during the five-game streak –and while walking only one and striking out 20.
Closer Shane Greene saved each of the first four games of the streak, and right-handed setup man Joe Jimenez hasn’t allowed an earned run in 18 of his last 19 games.
Left-hander Matthew Boyd (4-4), who opposes Reds right right-hander Sal Romano (3-7) on Tuesday night, was 6-11 with a 5.27 ERA last season Terence Newman Jersey , but he has won his last two starts and has trimmed his ERA nearly two runs per game from a year ago to 3.23.
And then there’s left-hander Blaine Hardy (3-1), who had only nine career wins going into this season. He was designated for assignment in spring training and wasn’t claimed by any other team but was brought back to Detroit in May and pitched his way into the rotation. He gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings in beating the White Sox 3-1 on Sunday.
Hardy takes pride in the fact that the Tigers are closing in on a winning record.
“Any team wants to be over .500, it’s kind of a mark that lets you know that you’re playing good baseball,” he said. “When we’re within (a few games) of the Indians, that’s a good sign, especially since we go (to Cleveland for a three-game series next weekend). We can go in there and say we have full control over what the standings will be.
“It’s huge. … We need to try to make a push, and I think we’re doing a good job of it.”
The Reds are making a modest push despite losing two of three last weekend in Pittsburgh and being 16 games out of the National League Central lead. They’ve won four of six, in part because of the way Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are hitting.
Suarez has homered in each of his last two games and is among the NL leaders with 52 RBIs. During an eight-game hitting streak Cameron Erving Jersey , Suarez is 9-for-29 (.310) with three homers, and he’s closing in on a .300 average — he’s currently at .297.
“He’s been one of the best players in the league,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said of his third baseman. “He’s always played his position well. He’s a smart player and he’s a very well-rounded baseball player.”
Since May 10, Gennett has raised his average from .301 to .336, with a high of .345, by getting hits in 26 of 33 games. He has a five-hit game, a four-hit game and three three-hit games during that run.
None of the Reds have faced Boyd before, and none of the Tigers have gone against Romano.
In Boyd’s last start Chase Allen Jersey , he gave up two runs and three hits in five innings of a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Romano has lost four of his last five decisions but is coming off his best start of the season, limiting the Kansas City Royals to one run and four hits in eight innings of a 5-1 Reds victory.
Both teams had a day off Monday.
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer says he hasn’t made a decision regarding the status of quarterback Sam Bradford, who has practiced the last two weeks in an attempt to be activated from the injured reserve list. Case Keenum will be the Vikings starting quarterback in Sunday’s NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
After practice on Friday, Zimmer refuted a report that Bradford might be activated.
A writer for the Boston Globe tweeted Friday the ”Vikings plan to dress” Bradford, who hasn’t been active since Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.
”I don’t know how the Boston Globe would know because I haven’t made any decisions yet,” Zimmer said.
Bradford was placed on the IR on Nov. 8 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean his left knee. He became eligible to practice before the Vikings’ Week 17 game, but didn’t until the following Tuesday. Since then, he’s participated in five practices.
”It’s kind of hard to get (Bradford) reps when you’re getting your starter ready Logan Thomas Jersey ,” Zimmer said. ”Forty reps in a practice, and he gets five and Bridgewater gets five.”
Bradford started in Week 1 against the Saints and passed for 346 yards, three touchdowns and a career high 143.0 passer rating, despite injuring his knee in the game.
Vikings cornerback Terence Newman (foot) was listed as questionable for Sunday. The veteran didn’t practice Thursday but was a limited participant on Friday.
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