AL Central week in review (May 13-19)

Jason Miller

Last week's action around the division, with the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Tribe and their rivals.

A.L. Central standings through Sunday, May 19:

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Cleveland 25 17 - 208 173 +35
Detroit 23 19 2 222 175 +47
Kansas City 20 20 4 171 157 +14
Chicago 19 23 6 155 170 -15
Minnesota 18 22 6 180 191 -11

The AL Central continues to be fairly closely bunched, bu the Tribe has pulled into a two-game lead. If you're the optimistic sort, Cool Standings (used by ESPN) now projects 93 wins the the Indians and gives them a 61% chance of making the playoffs. If you're the type who tempers their expectations, Fangraphs' advanced standings now projects 83 wins for the Indians, putting them 10 games back of Detroit and 2 games back of the second wildcard.

Cleveland Indians (5-2)

The Tribe started its week with a doubleheader against the Yankees. Justin Masterson pitched his second shutout of the season in the front end before the Indians feel in the nightcap. Next up were two games in Philadelphia. The first was a 6-2 loss, the third straight game in which the Tribe scored 2 runs or fewer, but the bats bounced back Thursday, propelling the team to a 10-4 win with home runs by Mike Aviles, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis.

The weekend brought three games back at home against the Mariners (with a fourth coming Monday afternoon). Friday night one of the biggest crowds of the season Kipnissed a walk-off home run in the 10th inning after Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 9 (though lasting just 5 innings). Saturday brought another walk-off win, but this one was only made possible by Chris Perez, who allowed to home runs in the 9th that tied the game. That cost Zach "Rough and Ready" McAllister the win, but we're all smart enough to know that doesn't matter. On Sunday the Tribe sparred us all any drama, as the offense got to Felix Hernandez early, making him the team's 7th Cy Young winning pelt on the young season. Masterson pitched another 7 shutout innings, striking out 11.

The Indians are now on a 17-4 tear, their hottest 21-game stretch since late in the 2007 season and it's now been over a month since they lost a series. This is the baseball.

Player of the Week: Justin Masterson (2 starts, 16 innings, 20 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP)

Player of the Weak: Mark Reynolds (.120/.214/.280, 8 strikeouts)

Detroit Tigers (3-4)

The Tigers hosted the Astros. They won Monday's game 7-2 behind a strong performance by Anibal Sanchez and home runs by Victor Martinez and Andy Dirks, and again Tuesday, on the strength of Doug Fister's solid outing. On Wednesday, after winning their first 6 games of the season against Houston, Detroit finally dropped one, still giving them a 2-1 series win. Next came 4 games in Texas to face the Rangers. Justin Verlander was roughed up for the second straight start and didn't survive the 3rd inning of Thursday's loss. The Tigers split the next two contests, with Rick Porcello pitching well and Sanchez pitching poorly. In Sunday's finale the Tigers looked poised to earn a series split, twice taking a two-run lead, but each time they squandered the advantage, eventually falling 11-8.

Miguel Cabrera went 4 for 4 on Sunday, including 3 home runs. Since joining the Tigers in 2008 he leads the AL in hits, home runs, runs, RBI, and OPS.

Player of the Week: Miguel Cabrera (.429/.484/.964, 12 hits, 4 HR, 7 R, 7 RBI)

Player of the Weak: Alex Avila (.063/.200/.063, 4 strikeouts, 1 hit all week)

Kansas City Royals (2-4)

The Royals spent the week in California, beginning with three games against the Angels. K.C. banged out 19 hits in the opener, a 11-4 win highlighted by 5 hits from Billy Butler. After dropping the second game, the Royals bounced back to win the rubber match and take the series. Next they rode of the Pacific Coast Highway (okay, they probably flew) to Oakland. The A's had won just 2 of their previous 10 games (including a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Indians), but Kansas City couldn't solve them and scored just 5 runs in the series and was swept, wasting strong starts from James Shields and Ervin Santana.

The Royals had been above .500 since April 8, but they are just 3-10 over the last two weeks and are back to an even record. The good news is they're headed to Houston for three games, and few things have been better for a team over the last three seasons than a series against the Astros.

Player of the Week: Billy Butler (.480/.519/.720, 12 hits, 3 2B, 4 R, 10 RBI)

Player of the Weak: Mike Moustakas (..040/.077/.080, 5 strikeouts, 1 for 25)

Chicago White Sox (4-3)

The White Sox were in Minnesota to start their week. After splitting the first two games, Chicago pounded the Twins in the series finale, getting two home runs from Adam Dunn and one from Dayan Viciedo. After that game four games with the Angels out west. If you've been keeping up with these weekly recaps, you know that Keppinger had not drawn a walk all season (he was at 140 PA and counting). Thursday's contest was tied in the 8th inning when Jeff Keppinger came to the plate with the bases loaded, and of course he finally managed to draw a walk, plating what proved to be the game winner. Friday night the Sox won again, running their winning streak to a season-high four games. Chris Sale pitched 7.2 shutout frames and struck out 12. Saturday the Sox put up 17 hits (15 of them singles), but were outscored and fell. They lost again on Sunday, leaving them with a series split.

The White Sox averaged 5 runs a game for the week, their best production all season. It was enough to pull them ahead of Seattle and into 14th place in the American League in runs per game.

Player of the Week: Alex Rios (.407/.467/.815, 11 hits, 6 XBH, 1 SB, 6 R, 7 RBI)

Player of the Weak: Hector Santiago (2 starts, 9 innings, 6.00 ERA, 1.89 WHIP)

Minnesota Twins (1-5)

It was laundry week in Minnesota, as the Twins hosted the Sox (White and Red). Chicago came to town first and in the opener Aaron Hicks had the best game of his young career, blasting two home runs and robbing Adam Dunn of one with a fantastic catch. Minnesota won that game, but dropped the next two. The Twins' struggles continued against Boston, with the bats failing on Friday, starting pitcher Scott Diamond failing on Saturday, and no one in particular looking very good on Sunday. The Twins were swept, and for the second time of 2013 they are now on a five-game losing streak.

Mike Pelfrey (6.57) and Vance Worley (6.20) are each sporting an ERA among the five worst in baseball for pitchers who've made 8+ starts.

Player of the Week: Justin Morneau (.370/.370/.481, 10 hits, 3 2B, 5 RBI)

Player of the Weak: Josh Willingham (.136/.208/.227, 7 strikeouts)


2013 Player Power Poll

Pitchers:

1) James Shields (Royals) - 66.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.45 K/9, 2.05 BB/9

2) Chris Sale (White Sox) - 64.0 IP, 2.53 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.58 K/9, 2.11 BB/9

3) Justin Masterson (Indians) - 70.0 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.13 K/9, 3.34 BB/9

4) Anibal Sanchez (Tigers) - 55.1 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.06 K/9, 2.28 BB/9

5) Ervin Santana (Royals) - 55.1 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.16 K/9, 1.46 BB/9

Hitters:

1) Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) - .387/.457/.659, 67 H, 11 HR, 34 R, 47 RBI

2) Carlos Santana (Indians) - .300/.409/.554, 23 BB, 12 2B, 7 HR, 24 R

3) Prince Fielder (Tigers) - .277/.406/.523, 30 BB, 9 HR, 21 R, 37 RBI

4) Joe Mauer (Twins) - .342/.420/.490, 53 H, 21 BB, 17 2B, 25 R

5) Alex Rios (White Sox) - .301/.363/.558, 49 H, 10 HR, 7 SB, 27 R

The Week Ahead

Indians: 1 vs. Mariners, 2 vs. Tigers, 4 @ Red Sox

Royals: 3 @ Astros, 4 vs. Angels

Tigers: 2 @ Indians, 4 vs. Twins

Twins: 3 @ Braves, 4 @ Tigers

White Sox: 3 vs. Red Sox, 3 vs. Marlins

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