AL Central standings (through Sunday, April 6):
The 2014 season is underway and my, oh my, is it ever good to have baseball back. Here's a recap of each American League Central team's last week of action, with injury updates and more. At the bottom you'll find the upcoming week's schedule for each team.
Detroit Tigers (4-1)
SB Nation site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers began their season by hosting the Royals. Justin Verlander had the honor of starting Opening Day. He worked 6 innings while allowing 3 runs (2 earned), with 3 walks and just 2 strikeouts. Not great, but not bad. The offense did just enough for a 4-3 win, highlighted by a Victor Martinez home run. Cy Young winner Max Scherzer started Wednesday. He was excellent, throwing 8 shutout frames (something he never did last season). Joe Nathan blew a save chance though, sending the game to extras, where Ian Kinsler (who'd homered earlier) played hero by singling in the winning run. Thursday's game was rained out.
The Tigers hosted Baltimore next. Anibal Sanchez started Friday, but exited with no outs in the 5th. Drew Smyly, (whose start would be skipped due to the earlier cancelation) came on in relief and gave 3 shutout innings. Miguel Cabrera had 4 hits, including the 2,000th of his career, and Detroit romped to a 10-4 win. The Tigers breezed to a 7-1 lead through 8 innings Saturday, with Torii Hunter driving in 5, but the bullpen almost blew it, which should be of concern to Detroit, even though they held on to win. Verlander pitched well on Sunday, 2 runs in 8 innings, but the offense was quiet and the Tigers could not complete the sweep.
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; Bruce Rondon (P) is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery
Chicago White Sox (3-3)
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
The White Sox hosted the Twins to begin the year. Chris Sale struck out 8 in 7.1 innings, giving up 3 runs. Alejandro De Aza hit a pair of home runs (becoming the 4th player in franchise history to hit two on Opening Day) and Chicago won 5-3. The Pale Hose were behind late Wednesday, but Adam Dunn homered in the 8th, they scored 2 more in the 9th, and won on a wild pitch in the 11th. Looking to sweep the series on Thursday, the Sox bats did their part, with De Aza homering again, Jose Abreu driving in 4 runs, and Tyler Flowers picking up 4 hits, but Jose Quintana wasn't sharp, and the bullpen was even shakier, leaving Chicago with a 10-9 loss.
Rookie Erik Johnson started Friday's series opener in Kansas City, and was roughed up for 7 runs before being chased in the 5th. Flowers had 3 more hits, but they weren't enough to avoid a 7-5 loss. The White Sox couldn't get much going on Saturday and lost again, squandering a decent start from John Danks. Chicago went into Sunday's game with Sale back on the hill, and he was again outstanding, pitching 8 shutout innings while allowing only 4 hits. Flowers and Alexei Ramirez each drove in a pair of runs in a 5-1 win.
Minnesota Twins (3-3)
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
The Twins were in Chicago to begin their season, and on Opening Day Ricky Nolasco (signed to the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history) did little to win over new fans, giving up 5 runs on 10 hits as Minnesota lost 5-3. Both the bats and the starter (Kevin Correia) did better on Wednesday, but closer Glen Perkins blew a 2-run lead in the 9th, and the Twins then lost in the 11th. Phil Hughes pitched in Thursday's series finale, and did little better than Nolasco (4 runs in 5 innings), but Minnesota's offense was out in full force, picking up a 10-9 win on the strength of 2-hit games from Josh Willingham, Chris Colabello (who drove in 6), and Trevor Plouffe.
It was off to Cleveland next. Mike Pelfrey was perfect through 4, but things caught up with him later and the pair of runs Minnesota scored in the 1st were not nearly enough to avoid a 7-2 defeat. The Twins knotted the series on Saturday with a 7-3 win, getting a solid start from Kyle Gibson, along with 3 hits by Jason Kubel and 2 by Joe Mauer, plus a home run by Brian Dozier that led off the game. That was the 1,000th win of manager Ron Gardenhire's career, making him the 60th ever to reach that milestone. Sunday's finale was a wild one. Minnesota took 2-0 and 6-2 leads, only to fall back into a tie both times. Colabello's bases-clearing double put them ahead for good in the 6th though, and they won 10-7. The Twins scored more runs than any other AL team last week, just as we all expected.
Injuries: Oswaldo Arcia (OF) is day-to-day with a wrist injury; Josh Willingham (OF) is day-to-day with a wrist injury
Cleveland Indians (3-3)
SB Nation site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians were in Oakland to begin the year. Justin Masterson was great on Opening Day, tossing 7 shutout innings. The offense finally got something going in the 9th and pushed 2 runs across, and the newly acquired John Axford picked up his first save. Tuesday's game was rained out, leading to a doubled header on Wednesday. Corey Kluber gave up 8 hits and 5 runs before being pulled in the 4th inning of a 6-1 defeat. Zach McAllister wasn't much better in the nightcap, but the offense kept them in the game. Michael Brantley continued the clutch hitting he displayed last season and drove in the tying and winning runs in the 9th, as Cleveland won 6-4.
The Indians went home to face Minnesota next. Danny Salazar gave up a pair of runs in the 1st on Friday, but limited further damage. Yan Gomes and Nick Swisher each homered; those two, Carlos Santana, and Lonnie Chisenhall each had 2 hits each in a 7-2 victory. Carlos Carrasco gave up 5 runs in 5.2 innings Saturday, and the offense was late to arrive for the fourth time in five games. The Tribe lost 7-3. It was Masterson's turn again for Sunday's rubber match, but he was knocked out in the 4th inning. The offense was game; David Murphy, Brantley, Swisher, Kipnis, and Santana all had multiple hits, but 12 runners were left on base in a 10-7 loss.
Kansas City Royals (2-3)
SB Nation site: Royals Review
The Royals were in Detroit to begin their season. James Shields gave up 3 runs in 6.1 innings and Salvador Perez collect 4 hits (tying a franchise Opening Day record, last reached in 1979 by Freddie Patek), but no one else got anything going and KC lost 4-3. Offseason acquisition Jason Vargas pitched very well on Wednesday, giving up only 1 run in 7 innings, but the offense was stifled and they went on to lose 2-1 in 11 innings. Thursday's series finale was rained out, denying Kansas City the chance to make a stronger statement against the division's heavy favorite.
The Royals headed home to host the White Sox for the weekend. Jeremy Guthrie didn't do well Friday, but it hardly mattered, as the offense did well. Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante each had three hits in a 7-5 win. Greg Holland struck out 2 as he picked up his first save. Bruce Chen took the mound Saturday and allowed only an unearned run in 6 frames. Alex Gordon had 2 hits and Billy Butler knocked in a pair of runs in a 4-3 win. Shields pitched well on Sunday, but got little help, and a rough 9th inning by Tim Collins ended any chance of pulling out a win. KC would have to settle for taking 2 of 3.
Player Power Poll
I'll get back to ranking the top players in the division once we have another week or two's worth of results.
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 vs. Padres, 4 @ White Sox
Royals: 3 vs. Rays, 3 @ Twins
Tigers: 2 @ Dodgers, 3 @ Padres
Twins: 3 vs. Athletics 3 vs. Royals
White Sox: 3 @ Rockies, 4 vs. Indians