AL Central Week in Review (April 21-27): Standings tighten even further

David Maxwell

Last week's action from around the division, with highlights, lowlights, injuries, schedules, and more...


AL Central standings (through Sunday, April 27):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 12 9 - 95 91 +4
Twins 12 11 1 127 122 +5
Royals 12 12 1.5 91 87 +4
White Sox 13 13 1.5 143 138 +5
Indians 11 14 3 98 113 -15

The division continues to be very tightly bunched together, with the top four teams sporting nearly identical run differentials and separated by only 1.5 games.

Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week, with highlights, lowlights, injury updates, and more:

Detroit Tigers (3-3)

SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys

The Tigers split a four-game series with the White Sox during the week. Their starting pitchers did well enough for them to win all four games, but the offense couldn't do anything on Monday and the bullpen failed on Wednesday (and nearly on Tuesday as well). Miguel Cabrera has gotten off to a very slow start, but he showed signs of turning things around with 6 hits in the series, including his second home run of the year.

The Tigers traveled to Minnesota for the weekend. Torii Hunter's 3 hits and Nick Castellanos' third home run of the season led Detroit to a 10-6 win Friday, but Anibal Sanchez had to leave Saturday's game after 2.2 no-hit innings because of a blister on his pitching hand. The bullpen walked 5 hitters before recording an out in the 5th inning, turning a 2-0 lead into a 5-3 loss. Sunday's game was postponed by rain, leaving the series a split.

Random Stat of the Week: Detroit's bullpen has a 5.65 ERA at the moment, which is second worst in all of MLB, ahead of only Houston.

Injuries: Andy Dirks (OF) is out til at least June with a back injury; Jose Iglesias (SS) is out til at least August with fractured shins; Luke Putkonen was placed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his elbow; Anibal Sanchez (P) was placed on the 15-day DL with a blister on his finger

Minnesota Twins (3-2)

SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town

The Twins took two of three in Tampa Bay during the week. Kyle Gibson was hit hard in the series opener (7 runs on 10 hits in 3 innings), but Minnesota got 7 innings of shutout relief work in a 12-inning win on Wednesday and the offense came up big in Thursday's rubber match, a 9-7 win that featured 3 hits apiece from Kurt Suzuki and Sam Fuld (who they just picked up off waivers). Chris Colabello continued his strong play with 2 home runs in the series.

Minnesota was back home for the weekend to face Detroit. Jason Kubel had 3 hits on Friday, and Brian Dozier hit his sixth home run, but Kevin Correia didn't survive the 3rd inning and the Twins fell 10-6. Phil Hughes pitched his best game of the season so far on Saturday, helping Minnesota knot the series up. That's how things were left after Sunday's game was postponed due to the weather.

Random Stat of the Week: The Twins lead all MLB teams with a 12.9% walk rate. That would easily top the franchise record of 11.4%, set back in 1956 when they were still the Washington Senators.

Injuries: Oswaldo Arcia (OF) is out with a strained wrist, he could return next week; Josh Willingham (OF) is out with a fractured left wrist, he could return in late April

Kansas City Royals (3-4)

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

The Royals dropped three of four in Cleveland during the week, with the only win coming on Tuesday, when James Shields  struck out 9 in 6 innings and the offense (one of the AL's weakest so far) put up 8 runs on 13 hits, including 4 by Eric Hosmer. Mike Moustakas hit a pair of home runs in the series, snapping out of a slow start. KC's defense made 4 errors during the four games, uncharacteristic miscues from arguably the best defense in baseball.

The road trip continued in Baltimore, and Kansas City was able to get back on track by winning two of three. Rookie  Yordano Ventura  pitched 8 shutout innings Friday night, Shields made his second strong start of the week on Sunday, the same day Omar Infante hit a home run and had 6 RBI, and Norichika Aoki had 2 hits in each of the three games.

Random Stat of the Week: Kansas City relievers have allowed only 1 home run so far this season, putting them on pace for just 7. The fewest allowed by any AL bullpen in the last twenty years is 28, by the 2002 Athletics.

Injuries: Francisley Bueno (P) is out with a sprained finger, he could return this week; Lorenzo Cain (OF) is out with a left groin strain, he could be back in early May; Tim Collins (P) is out with an elbow strain, he could return this week

Chicago White Sox (2-4)

SB Nation Site: South Side Sox

The White Sox' week got off to a horrible start before they played a single inning, when it was announced that Chris Sale was headed to the DL with a flexor strain in his left elbow. The Sox were in Detroit at the time, where they managed to split a four-game set with the Tigers. John Danks pitched a very good game on Monday, while Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn each homered twice during the series.

It was back home to host the Rays for the weekend. Rookie Erik Johnson couldn't get out of the 2nd inning Friday, but Abreu's second home run of the night was a walk-off grand slam, giving Chicago the win. The bats were silenced in a 4-0 loss on Saturday, but bounced back to score 9 runs in a Sunday afternoon victory that included a home run by... you guessed it, Abreu. He's got an MLB-leading 10 home runs and 31 RBI already.

Random Stat of the Week: Jose Abreu hit his 10th home run in just his 26th career MLB game. That makes him the fifth-fastest player to reach 10. The record belongs to George Scott, who got there in 21 games at the start of his career with the 1966 Red Sox. Zeke Bonura (1934 White Sox), Kevin Mass (1990 Yankees), and Chris Davis (2008 Rangers) each got there in 25 games.

Injuries: Conor Gillaspie (3B) was placed on the 15-day DL with a left hand contusion; Nate Jones (P) is out with a lower back injury, no return date has been mentioned; Jeff Keppinger (INF) is out while recovering from shoulder surgery, he could return soon; Felipe Paulino (P) is out with right rotator cuff soreness, no return date has been mentioned; Chris Sale (P) was placed on the 15-day DL with a left forearm strain

Cleveland Indians (3-4)

SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe

The Indians won three of four at home against the Royals during the week. Zach McAllister, Justin Masterson, and Corey Kluber all made quality starts in the series, with Kluber topping them all by tossing a complete game on Thursday, striking out 11 and allowing only an unearned run. Michael Bourn had 6 hits in the series, and looks to be shaking off the rust after a poor first week off the disabled list.

The Tribe headed to San Francisco, where they were swept after the offense managed just 5 runs all weekend. Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera each went 0 for 10 in the series, Carlos Santana went 0 for 9. The only bright spots were Bourn, who had 5 hits (including one to lead off each game) and Danny Salazar, who put things together for his first good start of the year on Sunday, going 7 innings and striking out 8 while allowing just 1 run.

Random Stat of the Week: Carlos Santana, the team's best hitter last season, is batting just .122, which is the very worst average in MLB right now. A .150 BABIP is somewhat to blame, but still... .122. Ouch.

Injuries: None

Player Power Poll

(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)

Pitchers

5) Chris Sale (CWS) - 27.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, 2.31 FIP, 192 ERA+, 9.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

4) Jason Vargas (KC) - 35.0 IP, 1.55 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 278 ERA+. 4.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

3) Justin Verlander (DET) - 33.0 IP, 2.18 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 195 ERA+, 7.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9

2) Max Scherzer (DET) - 33.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 173 ERA+, 12.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9

1) James Shields (KC) - 40.0 IP, 2.03 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 225 ERA+, 9.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

The Week Ahead

Indians: 3 @ Angels, 3 vs. White Sox

Royals: 3 vs. Blue Jays, 3 vs. Tigers

Tigers: 2 @ White Sox, 3 @ Royals

Twins: 3 vs. Dodgers, 3 vs. Orioles

White Sox: 1 vs. Rays, 2 vs. Tigers, 3 @ Indians

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