AL Central week in review (May 27-June 2)

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, June 2:

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Detroit 30 25 - 285 219 +66
Cleveland 30 26 .5 274 256 +18
Minnesota 25 29 4.5 237 252 -15
Chicago 24 30 5.5 186 221 -35
Kansas City 23 31 6.5 210 219 -9

The Indians lost more than they won last week, but managed to gain ground in the AL Central, as the Tigers struggled. The Twins had a fine week and passed the White Sox and Royals, leaving the division very bunched up again. Cool Standings (used by ESPN) now projects 86 wins the the Indians and gives them a 40% chance of making the playoffs, while Fangraphs now projects 82 wins for the Indians, putting them 10 games back of Detroit and 5 games back of the second wildcard.

Detroit Tigers (2-5)

The Tigers played four games with the Pirates last week, two at home and then two in Pittsburgh. On Monday Justin Verlander struck out 13 in 7 innings and picked up a win. On Tuesday Rick Porcello struck out 11 over 8 shutout frames, but Detroit couldn't score and eventually lost 1-0 in 11 innings, having collected nothing but 5 singles and 2 walks all game. On Wednesday a Miguel Cabrera home run staked the Tigers to a lead, but they lost it in the 7th and were defeated. Thursday had a strong sense of deja vu, as for the second time in three days Detroit lost 1-0 in 11 innings, this time squandering 12 strikeouts from Doug Fister.

Detroit then spent the weekend in Baltimore, dropping the opener 7-5 after Jose Valverde blew a 9th inning lead by allowing two home runs. The Tigers used 5 home runs to build a lead even their bullpen couldn't blow on Saturday, helping Verlander to his second win of the week and knotting the series, but in Sunday's rubber match the offense struggled to score and Detroit fell 4-2, handing them a 5th loss of the week for the first time all year.

Tigers starting pitchers are striking out 9.84 batters per 9 innings. The all-time MLB record is 8.62, by the 2003 Chicago Cubs, a mark that would seem to be in a while lot of danger this year.

Player of the Week: Rick Porcello (2 starts, 14 IP, 18 K, 1.93 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, the Tigers rotation has a chance to be historically great if Porcello gets it going)

Player of the Weak: Andy Dirks (.179/.204/.214, not awful, as these things go)

Cleveland Indians (3-4)

The Indians split four games against the Reds between the two towns, dropping the first pair in Cincinnati before taking the last two at home. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well in the first of those games, but Nick Hagadone allowed a 2-run home run to Joey Votto in the 8th and the Tribe was defeated. Things weren't that close the next night as Zach McAllister and the bullpen combined to allow 18 hits in a 8-2 loss. The Tribe used home runs from Mark Reynolds and Jason Giambiand 6 strong innings from Justin Masterson to bounce back and win Wednesday. Then on Thursday Scott Kazmir went 7 innings for the first time as an Indian and the offense exploded for 7 runs with two outs in the 4th inning, pushing the Indians to victory. It was the Tribe's ninth-straight home win over the Reds, dating to 2010.

Next into town were the Tampa Bay Rays. Friday night's contest was marred by nearly five hours worth of rain delays, with the Indians getting crushed when play finally resumed for good after midnight. It was a 9-2 defeat by the time the game ended at 2:53 in the morning. Jimenez left early to get some rest and on Saturday he pitched his finest game since joining the Indians, throwing 8 shutout innings and striking out 7 while allowing just 4 hits in a very satisfying win that also included Giambi's third home run of the week. Sunday's finale was a disaster though; McAllister couldn't survive the 5th inning and Francona left early too, getting tossed in the 5th after arguing balls and strikes. It ended as an ugly 11-3 loss.

Player of the Week: Ubaldo Jimenez (2 starts, 15 IP, 13 K, 1.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP)

Player of the Weak: Drew Stubbs (.095/.174/.095, 2 singles, 9 strikeouts)

Minnesota Twins (6-1)

The Twins' four games split-series was with the Brewers and began in Milwaukee. Joe Mauer and Chris Parmalee home runs led Minnesota to a win on Monday and they won again Tuesday, with the bullpen allowing just one run in 9.1 innings in a 14 inning affair. The Twins returned home and kept rolling, with WBC hero Samuel Deduno allowing just 1 run in 7 innings Wednesday, aided by a fine catch (and home run) by Aaron Hicks. Minnesota pushed the winning streak to 4 games Thursday, using 4 home runs to propel them to an 8-6 victory.

The Twins stayed home to host the Mariners for the weekend. Their momentum was slowed in the opener, as they were shutout in a 3-0 loss, but the bounced back and won the next game 5-4, led by Ryan Doumit's 3-hit performance. In Sunday's finale everything was clicking, Minnesota collected 10 runs on 16 hits, including home runs by Doumit, Chris Merrmann, Josh WIllingham, and Brian Dozier, and the Twins took the series, completing a 6-1 week and bringing them back into 3rd place.

Player of the Week: Ryan Doumit (.300/.344/.733, 9 H, 3 HR, 5 R, 11 RBI)

Player of the Weak: Jamey Carroll (.050/.095/.050, at least he only struck out 3 times)

Chicago White Sox (0-6)

The White Sox played their crosstown rivals last week, starting on the South Side, then jumping on the Red Line to visit the North Side. The Sox were shutout Monday, collecting just 2 hits in a 7-0 loss. Tuesday's game was postponed by rain (as interleague makeups go, it doesn't get much easier to schedule than a Sox/Cubs tilt). John Danks made it just 4 innings Wednesday and the bullpen was no better in another loss for the Pale Hose. Jake Peavy also last just 4 innings in his start on Thursday and the Sox were again defeated.

Chicago headed to Oakland for the weekend. David Axelrod allowed just 2 runs in 7 innings for the Sox Friday night, but was no match for LGFT Bartolo Colon, who pitched a 5-hit shutout. Chicago's offense managed a whopping 3 runs Saturday, but lost again in extra innings. Chris Sale took the mound Sunday afternoon, looking to put an end to the 5-game skid. He allowed only 1 run in 6 innings, but for the second time in three days and the third time on the week, the Sox were shutout. Chicago didn't hit a single home run all week and is scoring fewer than 3.5 runs a game, worst in the American League.

Player of the Week: NA (an 0-6 week means you don't get one)

Player of the Weak: Dayan Viciedo (.048/.048/.048, 1 single, 10 strikeouts. Solid!)

Kansas City Royals (2-5)

The Royals are in the unfortunate position of being interleague rivals with baseball's best team right now. The Cardinalsroughed James Shields up for 6 runs in a K.C. defeat Monday. The Royals then managed just 2 hits on Tuesday, another loss. Things then moved to St. Louis, where the Royals took a 3-1 lead into the 8th inning Wednesday, beforeAaron Crow completely unraveled and Kansas City took its 8th straight loss. They finally scratched out a win on Thursday, getting a solid start from Jeremy Guthrie and making the most of its 4 hits in a 4-2 victory.

The weekend saw them head down to Arlington for 3 games against arguably the best team in the American League. Wade Davis was knocked around again Friday night (his ERA now stands at 6.16), but they rebounded and won on Saturday, 4-1 in 10 innings. Shields worked the first 7, allowing only 5 hits, and the offense strung together 3 runs in the final inning. Ervin Santana allowed only 1 run (unearned) Sunday, but Yu Darvish kept the Royals at bay. It was tied 1-1 heading into the bottom of the 8th, but Texas pulled ahead, sending the Royals to their 5th loss of the week.

The Royals also reassigned their hitting coach and chose George Brett to replace him. Brett was one of the finest hitters in history, but I don't expect him to magically turn the Royals' bats around.

Player of the Week: David Lough (.389/.450/.556, 1.006 OPS, no, I'd never heard of him either, but I swear I'm not making him up)

Player of the Weak: George Kottaras (.118/.118/.176, 11 strikeouts)

2013 Player Power Poll

Pitchers:

1) Chris Sale (White Sox) - 70.0 IP, 2.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 8.49 K/9, 2.46 BB/9

2) Anibal Sanchez (Tigers) - 71.0 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.28 K/9, 2.28 BB/9

3) James Shields (Royals) - 86.0 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.16 K/9, 2.20 BB/9

4) Justin Masterson (Indians) - 82.0 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.11 K/9, 3.40 BB/9

5) Max Scherzer (Tigers) - 76.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.73 K/9, 2.12 BB/9

Hitters:

1) Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) - .367/.442/.668, 83 H, 17 HR, 45 R, 65 RBI

2) Joe Mauer (Twins) - .335/.417/.490, 69 H, 29 BB, 17 2B, 35 R

3) Carlos Santana (Indians) - .283/.390/.489, 31 BB, 13 2B, 8 HR, 31 R

4) Prince Fielder (Tigers) - .274/.390/.500, 35 BB, 11 HR, 29 R, 44 RBI

5) Alex Gordon (Royals) - .326/.369/.482, 73 H, 13 2B, 35 R, 31 RBI

The Week Ahead

Indians: 3 @ Yankees, 3 @ Tigers

Royals: 3 vs. Twins, 3 vs. Astros

Tigers: 3 vs. Rays, 3 vs. Indians

Twins: 3 @ Royals, 3 @ Nationals

White Sox: 3 @ Mariners, 4 vs. Athletics

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