By Brad Faber @Brad_Faber on August 5, 2014
With less than two months to go in the regular season, the Detroit Tigers find themselves in first place with a 4.5 game lead over the Kansas City Royals. However, if they wish to hang on to win their fourth consecutive AL Central crown and later reach their ultimate goal of winning the World Series, they will need a few key guys to step up. Here are five Tigers players who must make greater contributions in August and going forward.
22-year-old Nick Castellanos continues to have a solid rookie campaign, but his numbers have been tailing off a bit as of late. After posting an extremely impressive slash line of .337/.365/.520 in June, he batted .243/.333/.371 in July and has hit just .083/.083/.250 thus far in August. The Tigers could certainly use another hot streak from him, and it would be great if his bat could perk up this month.
2014 is shaping up to be Alex Avila's third-consecutive disappointing offensive season since he won a Silver-Slugger award back in 2011.He is currently slashing just .217/.321/.360 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 105 strikeouts. He can still, however, be a better hitter than what he has shown. Avila is one of only a few left-handed bats that the Tigers have, and it would be absolutely huge if he could start popping a few home runs again.
The Tigers acquired Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers last month in the hopes that he would help bolster their beleaguered bullpen currently sporting a 4.53 ERA which is good for third worst in MLB. However, things have not gone exactly as planned thus far as Soria has posted a 16.88 ERA in four outings as a Tiger. Going forward, he needs to start pitching like the guy the Tigers traded a pair of highly-valued prospects for.
Joe Nathan, who has had a very up-and-down season as the Tigers' closer. He has been throwing the ball better lately but still has a bloated 5.45 ERA and 1.46 WHIP to go along with his 22 saves. If Nathan can step up in August and resemble the pitcher he was with the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers, he would alleviate the anxiety of many Tigers fans and make them less fearful of seeing a reenactment of Jose Valverde's 2012 postseason meltdown.
It would suffice to say that Justin Verlander is not having a Verlander-type season, posting a 10-9 record with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Some fans have already begun talking about Verlander moving to the bullpen in the postseason, and those whispers will most likely not cease until he goes out and resembles the Verlander of old. But make no mistake; the Tigers pay Verlander to be a starter, and he needs to start righting the ship in August.
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