In an uncommon stress-free (at least for us fans) performance, the Tigers pounded the division-rival Indians 10-1 tonight. The attention-grabbing story was the triumphant return of Brandon Inge to the Tigers line-up. In his first at bat since being recalled from Toledo, he blasted a solo home run to left field in the second inning off Indians starter David Huff. The Tigers third baseman followed up with a run-scoring ground-rule double to center in the third. It's just one game, but it's possible he did regain his stroke playing for the MudHens. If he can contribute any production at all in a position share with Wilson Betemit, it would be a boost to the Tigers.
More important than Inge was the comeback performance by Tigers starter Doug Fister. After getting shelled by the Orioles in his last start, Fister excelled tonight versus a heavily left-handed Cleveland line-up. He had his good command tonight allowing just one run while striking out seven and walking just one in seven innings.
Like last night's starting pitcher Max Scherzer, Fister will be relied upon to pitch like this on a regular basis down the stretch. The same can be said of tomorrow's starter Rick Porcello. Both winning the Central Division and advancing past the first round of the playoffs will probably be dependent on those three starters more than anything else. If they can get hot at the right time, they can make the difference between blowing the division lead and having a memorable playoff run. Getting the mid-rotation guys to gel at the right time is so often the story at this time of year though. Isn't it?
Since Fister and Porcello don't get a lot of strikeouts, it's important to put a good defensive infield behind them. I have to think that Fister feels more confident with Inge and Ramon Santiago behind him than Wilson Betemit and Ryan Raburn. Perhaps a defensive platoon is in order, that is play Inge and Santiago behind Fister, Porcello and Penny and Betemit and Raburn behind Scherzer and Justin Verlander. It need not be a strict platoon but getting the good glove men behind the ground ball pitchers makes sense.
The night would not be complete without remarking on yet another outstanding performance by the amazing Alex Avila. Playing in his 13th consecutive game behind the plate, Avila reached base five times on a single, double and three walks. After slumping in the heat and humidity of July, he is batting a sizzling .442/.524/.788 in August.