8/19/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
The Week Ahead: Dodgers, Tigers look to stay hot
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
They're hot, but are they too hot to handle?
In the National League, lately it's been all about the Dodgers, who seem to be winning in more incredible fashion every time they step on a baseball field.
In the American League, it's been all about Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate shot at an unprecedented second consecutive Triple Crown while his Detroit Tigers try to run away with the AL Central, and his teammate, starter Max Scherzer, who is 18-1.
Sure, there are plenty of other storylines to keep our eyes on as we steam into a new week, one step closer to the end of August and to the beginning of September. But one team and two men are making it tough to divert our attention.
It seems like eons ago that the Dodgers were mired in May, with manager Don Mattingly on the hottest seat in the big leagues, Yasiel Puig a Double-A player with boundless potential and a host of question marks, Zack Greinke trying to make it back from a broken collarbone and Hanley Ramirez on the disabled list.
All of that is history, and what the Dodgers are doing is history in the making. They lost to the Phillies, 3-2, on Sunday, but before they did that, they won 10 in a row and 25 of 28 since the All-Star break. They went on a 42-8 tear through 50 games since June 22 that matched the 1941 Yankees and 1942 Cardinals for the best such stretch since 1900.
They are boat-racing the National League West and are 15-2 in August. They haven't lost their last 17 series. And they're doing all this without outfielder Matt Kemp, who is likely out with a sprained ankle until September.
This week they'll head to Miami to play four games against the Marlins before heading home for a three-game weekend set against the Red Sox.
"You expect to win and we have been, and that's how it's supposed to be and it is," Greinke said. "It doesn't even cross the mind that we're going to lose, even when we're down."
The Tigers seem to share that same attitude these days.
Cabrera hit his 40th home run Sunday and trails Baltimore's Chris Davis by five in that category for the AL lead. Otherwise, he's far ahead in batting average (.360) and comfortably up in RBIs (120). Scherzer, who won No. 18 on Sunday, is slated to go for No. 19 on Saturday against the Mets.
The Tigers are rolling, with the best record in the AL entering Monday (73-51), a seven-game division lead over Cleveland.
"I've always said the win-loss record is a little flukey," Scherzer said. "Every time I go out, the guys are putting up runs for me, making all the plays. So I can't take credit for 18-1. I mean, It's just stupid if I were to take [credit]. The rest of my teammates are doing so much for me."
Elsewhere around the league, there are plenty of doings in the new week.
The Phillies will enter their first full seven days without manager Charlie Manuel, who was dismissed on Friday. Hall of Fame player Ryne Sandberg has taken the reins on an interim basis and doesn't know what the future holds. What he does know is what he's looking for in the present.
"It's about competing," Sandberg said after his team beat the Dodgers on Sunday. "It's about improvement. It's about good play, and wins are certainly something we all shoot for. This is a game against a very good team -- a hot team -- that we'll take for now and hopefully build from that."
Other divisional battles continue to rage.
Texas and Oakland are still noses apart in the AL West, with Texas holding on to a half-game advantage. This week, the Rangers stay home for three games before an off day and then head to Chicago for a three-game weekend set highlighted by the annual Civil Rights Game on Saturday evening. The A's play three at home against Seattle before a Thursday off day and a weekend set in Baltimore against the Orioles.
In the NL Central, the Pirates are clinging to a one-game lead over the Cardinals and a 2 1/2-game advantage over the Reds in another stirring race.
Pittsburgh has the tough task of bouncing back from a 16-inning loss to Arizona on Sunday and heading right to San Diego for three games against the Padres followed by four vs. the Giants in San Francisco.
The Cardinals got a big win from Adam Wainwright over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday and now get three at home vs. Milwaukee before a crucial four-game weekender in Atlanta against the Braves, who have the best record in baseball and a 15 1/2-game lead in the NL East.
The Reds salvaged a weekend split with the Brewers and now get seven games at home this week: four against Arizona, three vs. Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the AL East is simmering, too.
The Red Sox enter the week with a one-game lead over the Rays in the AL East, and in New York, controversy continues to swirl regarding Alex Rodriguez, who plays while appealing his 211-game suspension and amid recent reports that his camp was involved in leaking information implicating already-suspended Ryan Braun and other players connected to the Biogenesis scandal, including his own teammate, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli.
The Yankees are fighting between the lines, trying to ignore the distractions. They won't have Derek Jeter this week, but they hope their shortstop and captain will return to action soon.
And Jeter's not the only big name who's injured right now.
The A's lost Bartolo Colon to the disabled list but recalled Tommy Milone and might get Brett Anderson back soon.
The Rays are wondering when lefty Matt Moore will return from the shelf, where he's been since July 28 because of a sore muscle in his left elbow.
Other teams still have almost two weeks to pull off waiver deals before the second deadline as playoff intensity builds.
Rays manager Joe Maddon summarized what most teams are looking for at this time of year while explaining how his club has rebounded from a rough road trip by getting hot back at home.
"Magic does occur," Maddon said. "It has that feel to it, but we have to pitch and play defense to permit that to happen."