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By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor - Archive - Email
Tigers better than advertised
Detroit boasts the best record in the American League at 5-1.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We are a week into the Major League Baseball season and I am feeling more than confident with my preseason pick of the Detroit Tigers as World Series champions.

The Los Angeles Dodgers may own the majors' best record entering weekend action, but no team has been more impressive than the Tigers.

Heading into the weekend, Detroit boasts the best record in the American League at 5-1 after a pair of impressive series wins over the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, two teams thought to be right up there with the Tigers as the class of the league heading into the season.

The three-game sweep of the Red Sox last weekend particularly stood out, as the Tigers showed you no matter how many runs you want to score, they are able to explode at any given moment.

And, oh yes, they still have Justin Verlander, so if you want to get into a pitcher's duel, go right ahead.

Verlander pitched eight scoreless innings on Opening Day, only to see closer Jose Valverde blow his first save in more than a year. The Tigers, though, still managed to win that one, as they scored a run in the home half of the ninth to send everyone home happy.

Then the Tigers just put on a power display on Saturday, battering Boston starter Josh Beckett on their way to a 10-0 win.

Boston seemed to have Detroit's number in the finale, but was unable to preserve a three-run ninth-inning lead and a two-run 11th-inning advantage, as the Tigers pulled out a walkoff win when Alex Avila's two-run home run gave them the victory.

This week, it's been more of the same against a Rays team that looked unbeatable last weekend against the New York Yankees. But, even Joe Maddon's crew was left looking for answers after dropping two of three at Comerica Park.

And they were lucky to even get the one win.

Verlander again tossed eight scoreless innings, but finally ran out of steam in the ninth, as the Rays pushed four runs across in the final frame to snatch a victory away from the AL's reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner.

As good as Verlander is and will likely be this season, his efforts are going to be overshadowed by what is going to be a terrific lineup, more specifically the best hitter in the game today, Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera was already in that discussion, but by the end of this year there will be little doubt. It's a small sample size, but the pairing of him with Prince Fielder seems to have taken Cabrera to another level. Cabrera heads into the weekend near the top of almost every offensive category, hitting .381 with three home runs and nine RBIs.

What does the rest of the league think of Cabrera? Well, last season NL MVP Ryan Braun hit in front of Fielder and was walked intentionally just twice, even though there were lefty relievers who could have pitched to the lefty- swinging Fielder.

Cabrera has already been walked intentionally twice this season.

Is it too early to say that he has a legitimate shot at a Triple Crown this season hitting in front of Fielder? I don't think so.

Speaking of Fielder, he's adjusted very nicely to the AL, smacking two home runs with four RBIs.

But the real surprise has been the improved play of leadoff man Austin Jackson. A slight adjustment to his stance has seemingly done the trick, at least early on, as he is hitting .435 in six games with nine runs scored. Some things never change, though, as evidenced by his six strikeouts in 23 at- bats. Jackson, of course, was second in the league in that category last season.

And that incredible offense may get even better just in time for the postseason, as it was learned earlier in the week that designated hitter Victor Martinez's knee injury wasn't as bad as originally thought and could be healed in time for him to return in late August or early September.

Let's not get twisted here, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. But if I'm living in Detroit, I'd probably go ahead and start saving some money for postseason tickets.


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