SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 11: Aaron Rowand #33 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by Aubrey Huff #17 after he scored on a wild pitch by Armando Galarraga #59 of the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park on May 11, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
And we've returned for our weekly check-in on fan confidence around the league, where we attempt to measure whose confidence has soared the most, and whose confidence has sank to the greatest degree over the last week(ish) of play. Having been in communication with regional confidence officials around the country all season long, I am super confident (lol!) in the veracity of the following.
Fan Confidence Booms
Last time we checked in, the Tigers were 14-17, winners of two in a row. Well now they're winners of eight of nine, and since last Thursday morning, the Tigers have scored 53 runs, with the second-highest total in baseball belonging to the Reds, with 35 runs. The Tigers haven't only outscored everybody else, they've taken the second-highest run total and switched the digits. They're now only four back in the Central, and oh also Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter because why not? These are good times to be a Tigers fan, and with a weekend set against the Royals coming up, the opportunity's there for the team to get some separation and set its sights on Cleveland.
You'll remember that the Rays were once 1-8, but they've been on fire ever since and, with Thursday's win over the Indians, have gone 6-1 since our last report. Evan Longoria's back in the lineup. Everybody's pitching. Nobody else in the division is playing particularly well. I'm not saying Rays fans are feeling ultra-confident right now, but Tony Robbins just called them for a pick-me-up.
It wasn't too long ago that the Giants were kind of floundering a little bit, but then they decided "hey we should probably stop floundering," so they swept the first-place Rockies and have won two in a row over the Diamondbacks. Fun fact: the Giants' last seven games have featured a total of 32 runs, with the Giants' hitters being responsible for 19 of them. The Giants' lineup has been terrible, but it's nice as a fan to know that your terrible lineup only needs to score like twice or thrice a game to support your awesome pitching staff. The Aaron Rowand blues aren't so bad when you realize that a team full of Aaron Rowands would still score enough with this staff to win 95 games.
The NL Central is kind of one of my blind spots, and it's probably because there are too many teams and I get overwhelmed, but the Reds have won six of their last eight games to keep up with the Cardinals, and their short four-letter name should keep them aerodynamic while the Cardinals' nine-letter pile of bulk will slow them down against the strong winds of summer.
White Sox fans shouldn't get too excited, but this is a team that just over a month ago had high preseason expectations, and now it's won four of five while getting Jake Peavy back from the DL. When it's the end of April and you feel like your season's already shot, it feels good when May breathes new life. There's hope for Sox fans to cling to, where a week ago there wasn't.
Fan Confidence Busts
Uh oh! Rockies fans have been knocked from their lofty perch as a team slump has coincided with a Giants hot streak, with the result being that the teams are suddenly tied for first in the NL West. The Rockies' lead was a full four games just last week, but that gap evaporated faster than the morning dew off of Kirk Gibson's forehead. In this hypothetical, Kirk Gibson passed out on his Phoenix-area front lawn.
Over the previous three seasons, the Twins were never more than seven games out of first place. This year they've already reached double digits. Already struggling, the Twins have lost five games in a row, and there are whispers about whether or not Justin Morneau will ever return to being what he was before his concussion. On the plus side, at least the team just scored seven runs. It lost, but it scored seven runs. It's a different kind of loss, and variety is the spice of life.
Last Friday night, the Mariners got within one game of .500 after Brendan Ryan drilled a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the White Sox. Since then, the M's have lost four in a row, with three close ones and one clunker. This is a season that, for Mariners fans, has been straddling the border between meaning and insignificance, and right now I can assure you that we're all back to feeling like the individual games are pointless. A little winning streak could change that, but we're nothing if not eager to return to not really caring about whether or not our team wins or loses. It's just sports. There are so many more important things than sports. Why not prepare an elaborate meal? Go for a walk? Go for a walk in the rain?
The Marlins were playing really good baseball, but then they stopped playing really good baseball, and though they had an opportunity to make up for it in a series against the Phillies, they blew a late 3-0 lead in the finale and dropped two of three. The imminent return of Logan Morrison will give the Fish a boost, but with the Braves surging and the Phillies having widened their lead, Marlins fans have to be feeling a little anxious. Or at least I'd think so. I tried to reach some Marlins fans but they were all busy doing something awesome in the sunshine and not thinking about baseball at all. Marlins fans might be the happiest fans.
With Thursday's early loss to the Rays, the Indians have now lost five of eight, and while losing five of eight isn't even enough losing to be considered a slump, it feels like the worst slump of all time when you're rooting for a surprise contender and spending every waking minute just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every little hiccup feels like the other shoe dropping. So many shoes have dropped for Cleveland fans over the past several days that it sounds like somebody tap-dancing Morse code.