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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 http://www.chiefsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-robert-golden-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, 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 http://www.ravensauthorizedshops.com/authentic-orlando-brown-jr.-jersey ,” 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, 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 http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-mike-gesicki-jersey , 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, 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.
LeBron James and the depleted Cleveland Cavaliers won’t get any sympathy from the Celtics when they return to Boston for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Already laboring to reach his eighth straight NBA Finals with a supporting crew made mostly of cast-offs and throw-ins, James lost the only other All-Star on the roster on Saturday when Kevin Love was declared out for the series finale with a concussion.
Now, in what could be his final game in a Cleveland uniform – again – James will have to do it largely on his own.
In Boston, where the Celtics are perfect so far this postseason.
And in a series where the road team hasn’t really even come close.
”There’s something different about LeBron, period,” Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. said after James scored 46 with 11 rebounds and nine assists on Friday night to send the series to a decisive seventh game. ”I think (coach Tyronn Lue) said it best: `We’re going into a Game 7 with the baddest dude on the planet on our team.’ I like our chances.”
James is having what could be the best postseason of his career, averaging 33.9 points and just under nine assists and rebounds, with seven 40-point games Bradley Chubb Color Rush Jersey , two buzzer beaters, and a sweep of top-seeded Toronto. But he’s played in every game this season – Sunday will be his 100th – and it showed in the Game 5 loss to the Celtics.
He admitted to fatigue afterward, and then played all but two minutes in Game 6 despite a sore knee from a collision with Nance.
Still, the four-time MVP carried his team even after Love banged heads with Boston’s Jayson Tatum in the first half and left the game.
”I can’t say enough good things about him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. ”Every time we watch. Every time you’re standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game.”
James will probably have to do it again in Game 7 to reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year, something accomplished only by Bill Russell and some of his Celtics teammates in the 1960s.
Lue said he wasn’t concerned about James’ leg. Or about the team’s history in the TD Garden, where the Cavaliers lost the first three games by an average of 17 points.
”We throw it all out,” Lue said on Saturday. ”It’s one game left to go to the NBA Finals.”
The Celtics have had their own injury problems, starting in the first quarter of the season opener – at Cleveland – when top free agent Gordon Hayward went out for the year with a broken leg. Five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, acquired from the Cavaliers in an offseason roster overhaul, needed knee surgery and was lost in March.
But they caught a break when Tatum was cleared to play on Saturday. Stevens said the team doctors checked on him ”and he’s great.”
”So nothing there as far as to be concerned about Weston Richburg Color Rush Jersey ,” Stevens said.
Well, there’s one thing to be concerned about.
”We know LeBron is different than a lot of other guys, but we’ve got to get the job done,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier said. ”That’s no excuse, so we’re looking forward to it.”
For James, it’s an opportunity to extend the season for his hometown team and put off another summer of questions about his future. Eight years ago, he came to Boston for the conference semifinals and had a triple-double – 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists – but shot 8 for 21 with nine turnovers and the Celtics eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs.
As he left the court, James stripped off his Cleveland jersey; then came ”The Decision” and the move to Miami.
James is again able to become a free agent this season, with the Lakers, 76ers and Rockets among the most-mentioned destinations. Having led Cleveland to the city’s first major sports title in half a century in 2016 http://www.patriotsauthorizedshop.com/authentic-troy-niklas-jersey , there is less pulling at him to stay home this time.
But another title would ease the pain even more. And with the injury bug hitting the Western Conference finalists – Chris Paul was the latest ruled out for a game – the East champion might not be as big an underdog as expected.
James will be ready.
”You’ve got to be poised. You’ve got to be able to handle a punch or two,” he said. ”We know it’s challenging. They’re 10-0 on their home floor, and they’ve been very successful against us, obviously, at home. But if you love challenges, then this is a great opportunity.”
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