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Says Gibson, "It's no secret I like to win. I get pumped up. It's my release. The good Lord gave me more adrenaline than most people. You've always got to keep the foot to the floor."
Can Gibson and the Tigers maintain this pace? "It depends on the pitching," Anderson says. The Detroit staff needs only to be serviceable for the Tigers to stay in the race. As starter John Doherty says, "We know all we have to do is go out and pitch decent games with this team behind us." So powerful is the Detroit offense that Mike Moore, who was supposed to be the ace of the staff, put together one of the more remarkable eight-game unbeaten streaks in recent memory. Despite a 6.70 LRA, he was 2-0 in that stretch because the Tigers scored 73 runs in those eight games.
Doherty (4-2, 3.28 ERA), who appears to be Detroit's best homegrown starter since Jack Morris, has been consistent, as has Wells. But the rest of the rotation is suspect, what with Moore struggling, Bill Gullickson rehabbing from knee and shoulder ailments, and the fifth spot serving as a starter's tryout slot for pitchers in the bullpen. Because of Detroit's ability to score and give up runs so quickly, no lead is safe in a Tiger game. Detroit already has lost six times when it held a lead in the seventh inning or later. It has lost eight times when it has scored at least five runs. Neither of those stats includes the May 3 exhibition game against Triple A affiliate Toledo, in which Detroit blew a two-run lead in the eighth and lost 10-9.
All of that makes for excitement at Tiger Stadium, where $8 million worth of improvements to the ancient structure were ordered by Hitch, the onetime Tiger farmhand who purchased the club last August from rival pizzaman Tom Monaghan of Domino's. Foremost among the changes is an area of 3,750 box seats, called the Tiger Den, that is situated between the dugouts. The club put in chairs with cushioned seats and wooden armrests, installed wrought-iron grillwork, offered waitress service and on-demand cellular phone service, and raised the price of those seats from $12.50 to $20. They sold out in a flash.
The Tigers' marketing department scheduled 55 promotional dates, which, it likes to brag, is the most in baseball. Detroit is giving away five different pieces of headgear alone this year. Moreover, hot dogs, peanuts and key chains and assorted other bric-a-brac are handed out free in some part of the stands at every game. And with the daily volley of baseballs being launched into the outfield seats by Tiger hitters before and during games—at the rate of about 23 dozen baseballs a week—most every fan takes home something for nothing.
The Tigers are having such a good time that Anderson, who used to cross off games on his wall schedule like a prisoner marking time, has left his 1993 calendar untouched. "I don't cross 'em out no more," he says. "I don't do that when the games are fun. And it's fun this year."
Deer is in a perfect position to pass summary judgment on what's happening in Detroit. A home run hitter whose locker is beneath one of the clubhouse's throbbing speakers, Deer likes to put the season so tar this way: "It's a blast."
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