Inside Pitch: Playoff Bound?

When it comes to statistics and historical analysis, baseball is like any other sport. So how is it that history might be indicating the Tigers might already be in good shape for a playoff spot, with more than 100 games to go?

Maybe it won't last, but Detroit's early success this season is beyond being a fluke.

The Tigers hold baseball's best record after their 1-0 victory Sunday over Cincinnati.

Detroit is 29-14, and history is starting to show statistics that are on the Tigers' side.

Research by Dave Smith of, shows eight of the past nine teams that had baseball's best record on the morning of June 1 have reached the postseason. In 2002, Red Sox (36-15) wound up winning 93 games but finished second in the American League East.

The Tigers had baseball's best record after 40 games for only the third time in the last 45 years. The other two years were 1968 and 1984, seasons Detroit won the World Series.

Recent other statistical milestones for early-season records noted only two teams in the last 11 seasons that had the best record in baseball through May 18 failed to make the playoffs.

Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but with the good pitching Detroit is getting, maybe it does.

REPLAY: A pinch single by Placido Polanco with one out and runners on first and third in the eighth inning Sunday plus strong clutch pitching by Detroit enabled the Tigers to record their eighth shutout of the season, a 1-0 victory over the Reds.

Inge walked to start the eighth against Aaron Harang (5-3) and scooted to third when the pitcher fielded a sacrifice bunt by Vance Wilson and flipped the ball wildly to first for an error.

Polanco batted for his starting replacement, Ramon Santiago, and took an outside 0-1 pitch to right for an RBI single after Curtis Granderson struck out.

Nate Robertson shut out Cincinnati for 7 1/3 innings, retiring the first nine batters he faced. He worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth and kept the Reds from scoring after they put runners on second and third with nobody out in the seventh.

Fernando Rodney relieved with a runner on first and one out in the seventh and got the next five outs. Todd Jones set a club record with his 155th career save, his 13th in 14 tries this season, by working a hitless ninth.

--LHP Nate Robertson effectively worked all his pitches Sunday to help Detroit get its eighth shutout of the season, 1-0 over Cincinnati. Robertson was spotting his fastball and slider, along with making strategic use of his changeup, to work 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

He fanned Adam Dunn on a 3-2 changeup with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth.

In the seventh, a single by Dunn and a double by Edwin Encarnacion with nobody out gave Cincinnati its best scoring chance. But Robertson spotted his slider and fastball to get a groundout, another grounder that resulted in Dunn getting thrown out at the plate, and a third groundout that ended the inning.

--DH Dmitri Young returned to Detroit's starting lineup Saturday, a day earlier than originally planned.

Manager Jim Leyland noted Young's career 5-for-12 against Cincinnati LHP Eric Milton, factored in the switch hitter batting right-handed, and wrote him into the lineup. Young went hitless, batting both right- and left-handed in the game.

He struck out three times Sunday, looking late on fastballs, and he could be headed for more work in the batting cages in an attempt to get his bat up to speed.

--2B Placido Polanco was not in the starting lineup Sunday as manager Jim Leyland continues to protect his sore back.

Polanco hasn't complained of pain, but Leyland is monitoring it and opted to rest his starting second baseman with Sunday being a windy, chilly day following a night game. Polanco is expected to start Monday night in Kansas City.

Polanco did pinch-hit in the eighth inning Sunday and steered an outside pitch on the ground to right field with runners on first and third and one out. He was chosen to hit for his replacement, INF Ramon Santiago, because of his ability to make contact.

"I wasn't trying to do much there," he said. "I was just trying to put the ball in play and run like I stole something."

--C Vance Wilson cannot replace Ivan Rodriguez, but he's doing a very good job of supplementing the regular catcher.

Wilson was part of three key plays in Detroit's 1-0 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday.

His sacrifice bunt, which was botched as Reds RHP Aaron Harang flipped the ball wildly to first, put runners at the corners with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth and set the stage for the winning single by pinch hitter Placido Polanco.

In the top of the inning, he threw out Cincinnati's best runner, SS Felipe Lopez, trying to steal with one out on a 2-2 pitch to remove a scoring threat. Wilson tagged out huge Adam Dunn trying to score from third on a one-out groundball in the seventh, making the tag and avoiding contact.

--RHP Todd Jones set a club record Sunday with his 155th career save with the Tigers.

Jones worked a scoreless ninth to earn his 13th save in 14 chances with Detroit this season, his first back with the club since being dealt away in the middle of 2001 because the organization felt he was going to leave as a free agent at the end of the year.

He has been pitching with a sore knee recently but got a couple of games off to give it some rest.

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