The best part about the Tigers’ big lead in the Central is that it means October baseball is looming.
The worst part is, everyone becomes a mathematician.
For the next few weeks, you’ll hear about magic numbers and second-half numbers, and you’ll hear this about 8,146 times: If the Tigers just play .500 the rest of the way, the Indians would have to go something like, oh, 21-0 to catch them!
There will be comparisons to 2009, when the Tigers had a seven-game lead on Sept. 6 and blew the division. This year on Sept. 6, they have a seven-and-a-half game lead and are unlikely to blow it partly because the Indians and White Sox don’t look capable of any reasonable charge.
I’ll play mathematician for one second and peg the Tigers’ chances of winning the division at 91.3 percent. After a clinching, there also will be comparisons to 2006, when they went 95-67 and lost to the Cardinals in five games in the World Series. Any connection is way premature, although this team could hit 90 victories.
One person who wouldn’t mind the comparison is Magglio Ordonez. Suddenly, with the loss of Brennan Boesch for the season with a thumb injury, Ordonez gets a curtain call. No way can it match the rousing call he took in 2006, when he clubbed the pennant-clinching home run against Oakland. But every time Ordonez gets buried, he finds a way to dig himself back to relevance.
A broken ankle ended last season and rendered him barely usable early this season. He’ll still platoon in rightfield, but Jim Leyland’s faith in Ordonez could pay off. No, no, he’s not going to be the .309 hitter he’s been his whole career. He’s 37 and without a contract for next season, and he’s not magically the Magglio of Old.
But he’s on a nine-game hitting streak — 13-for-33 — and is driving the ball hard again, and his average slowly has climbed to .242.
“I was struggling for most of the year, but now I got my groove back,” Ordonez said. “People are always going to question, but you have to understand, I’m coming back from a really serious injury. I always knew once my ankle and my body were feeling good, I would be successful. It’s no fun when you play with something hurt. Now that I’m 100 percent healthy, I think I’ll do much better.”
The Tigers don’t necessarily need Ordonez to be wildly productive, not the way Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are hitting. But as symbols go, Ordonez is an interesting one. In 2006, he was a major component. He’s not now, but the Tigers just need him to be occasionally dangerous. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, Ordonez is still capable of that.