Times have quickly changed for the Detroit Tigers.
Though expectations were never high this season for the rebuilding bunch, the Tigers raised a few eyebrows by hanging around in an albeit weak American League Central Division for most of the first three months of the season.
A 3-1 victory June 17 over the Chicago White Sox gave the Tigers a five-game winning streak and pulled them within 2.5 games of the first-place Cleveland Indians. And, a few wondered, are the Tigers more than a curiosity?
The Tigers entered Tuesday's game against the Oakland Athletics with a 36-43 record, which is third in the AL Central and eight games behind the front-running Indians.
"This Tigers team isn’t very good, but they could be so much worse," writes SI's Emma Baccellieri. "This spring, most predicted Detroit would finish last in the division. But a week ago, after a five-game win streak, this squad was in second place and within spitting distance of .500. Their situation has worsened since then and may not improve."
Baccellieri writes that the Tigers have received surprising offensive contributions from new additions Leonys Martin and Niko Goodrum, plus holdover Jose Iglesias, to try to offset the loss of Miguel Cabrera to a biceps injury and counter "dreadful" seasons from Victor Martinez and Dixon Machado.
"A mediocre pitching staff doesn't make matters any better," writes Baccellieri of a staff that owns a 4.45 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, both of which rank 22nd in the majors.
The Indians own the AL Central's top midseason grade (B-plus), while the Minnesota Twins garnered a C. The Tigers do own bragging rights over the White Sox (D-minus) and the Kansas City Royals, who received an F for their first-half work.