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Reason for Optimism?:Detroit Tigers Show They Have Plenty of Bite Left

For the throngs of Tiger fans and critics alike, today's game was for you. 

For the talking heads and assorted prognosticators who have predicted another disappointing season in Detroit, today's game was for you.

For those who called for Jim Leyland to run for governor three years ago and are now calling for his head, today's game was for you.

And for those that think the city of Detroit is a walking corpse, today's game was for you.

At no time over the past couple seasons have the Tigers needed a victory more. 

Sure, Detroit won a game in Toronto, thus avoiding the same fate as last year's disastrous club. 

However, the loss on the following day sapped much of the slight optimism that had begun to pool in the corners of the sports pages.

Detroit needed an emphatic victory, and their kitties delivered in a resounding way, lassoing the Texas Rangers in a 15-2 affair on Friday afternoon.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  This was one game, and the Tigers are still one game below .500.  I concede these points.  But there is also a lot more reason for optimism than may initially be visible.

The reason that this game was so important was for the psyche of the players, as much as it was for the fans. 

Those who felt burned by a drastically underachieving team last year needed to see a glimmer of hope. 

Those who howl about Leyland and the overpaid yet under performing players needed to have a season home opener that would make them eat a little crow.  Believe me, it goes down easier with a smuggled pocket flask of whiskey and an $8 beer chaser. 

And those pitchers that waited in vain for their run support and the hitters that saw 0-0 opening scores turn quickly into insurmountable obstacles needed a day off from the cardiac arrest which was last season.

Let's take a look at what we have seen so far through five games. 

The offense has been stellar, winning with both power and manufactured runs.  Typical slow starters, like Miguel Cabrera, have flourished.  A player looking for a bounce back season, Brandon Inge, has looked fantastic.  Even the usually terrible hitter Gerald Laird managed to get a couple hits.

Defensively, the Tigers have been relatively consistent, although three players that the team has flaunted for their defensive prowess, Inge, Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago each have errors.  Inge's in particular came at a very inopportune moment.  Regardless, they have looked better, and their consistency will come with time.

The real story so far has been the pitching.  The bullpen has been interesting to say the least.  The two players brought in to lend a stable and steady hand, Juan Rincon and Brandon Lyon, have been lit up. 

Meanwhile, the usually inconsistent Fernando Rodney looked great in his inning of work and rookie Ryan Perry has looked like a real gem in his two outings.  Nate Robertson has been, well, Nate Robertson.

Additionally, the starting pitching has shown some real signs for hope.  Edwin Jackson was a revelation in his start, Zach Miner looked great and Armando Galarraga picked up right where he left off last year.  Those three, some might say, are the key to the season (at least in the early part of the year).

Justin Verlander got lit up, but that really shouldn't trouble you too much.  After two great seasons saw him reach the upper echelon of starting pitchers, one season and a start or two will not undo that reputation.  Verlander still has great stuff, and word is that he is still experimenting with new techniques on the mound.

Rookie Rick Porcello showed signs of electric stuff, and didn't get roughed up until the end of his outing.  Look for the rookie to bounce back next week against an anemic Chicago White Sox offense. 

The key for the starting staff will be to eat up innings, and they all have the capacity to do just that.  If the rotation can continue to put up solid performances, Leyland will have a tough call to make when Jeremy Bonderman returns.  I am betting that the old skipper is hoping to have such a problem. 

Additionally, Verlander needs to calm down and realize that the entire club's success does not rest solely on his shoulders.  This one great turn through the rotation should be enough to help the young right hander begin to right his ship.  Look for him to have a strong six or seven inning outing Saturday, striking out at least four and giving up only three or four runs.  You heard it here first!

This season has just begun, and it is impossible to know what will happen between now and October.  However, the pessimists have dominated the airwaves and the web alike, predicting doom and gloom.  Consider this a residual effect from the economic pain many are feeling right now. 

It does not have to be like this, not in sports.  The city of Detroit has had a tough year economically, not to mention sports-wise.  The Pistons have had a disappointing season, currently limping their way into the playoffs.  And while the Red Wings continue to dominate hockey, nothing can erase the disgraceful season the Lions put us through.

Therefore, a little negativity can be expected.  However, huge groups of fans have completely written off the Tigers.  To those critics, I offer a simple plea: get off the ledge!

This season has just begun, and your Tigers just pounded a very solid Texas team.  Your starting rotation has looked great, and you have one of the greatest players in the game in Cabrera.  Relax! 

Perhaps my writing and heartfelt pleas will not deter the vitriolic detractors.

Perhaps the Detroit Tigers will do that themselves.



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