AL Central standings (through Sunday, May 18):
The Tigers have gone 15-3 over the last three weeks, giving them the best record in baseball and the most commanding lead of any team over its divisional competition. They're less than a quarter of the way through their schedule, yet they feel like a lock. Can someone else get hot and begin to reel them in?
Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week, with highlights, lowlights, injury updates, and more:
Detroit Tigers (6-0)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers were out east last week for the first six games of a nine-game road trip. They started in Baltimore, where they swept the O's. Rick Porcello allowed only 1 run in 6 innings in the opener and Drew Smyly did the same in the second game. Justin Verlander cruised through 5 shutout innings in the finale, before being roughed up for 5 runs in the 6th. The offense was up to the task though, as Detroit won 7-5. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Rajai Davis each homered once during the series.
The next stop was Fenway, but the defending World Series champions could do little to slow down the Tigers' roll. A double by Martinez in the 1st inning plated Friday's only run, as Max Scherzer and four relievers combined for a shutout. Porcello gave up only 1 run in 8 innings on Saturday lowering his ERA to 2.91. Three hits by Cabrera, including another long ball, led the offense. Anibal Sanchez returned from his finger injury Sunday night, and while he only went 5 innings, he mostly kept Boston off the board. Martinez and Torii Hunter each homered and Kinsler added four hits as the Tigers won 6-2 and swept the series (and their week). FanGraphs' playoff probabilities now have Detroit at 92.7% to win the Central
Random Stat of the Week: Martinez (.331), Cabrera (.316), and Kinsler (.315) are all in the AL's top five for batting average right now. The last AL team with 3 of the top 5 in BA was the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays, when John Olerud (.363), Paul Molitor (.332), and Roberto Alomar (.326) finished 1-2-3.
Kansas City Royals (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals hosted Colorado for a quick two-game set during the week. Eight strikeouts in 7 innings from James Shields propelled Kansas City to a 5-1 opener in the first game, with Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez each homering. Another good start by Jason Vargas and a bases-clearing double by Mike Moustakas (who seemed on the verge of a demotion a week ago) led them to another win in the second game.
Next into town was Baltimore. The KC offense was silenced for much of the weekend, leaving the Royals with 2-1 and 4-0 losses in the first two games. Then they scored only one run on Saturday, meaning the pitching would have to be just about flawless if they were going to win... Well, Danny Duffy was perfect through 6 innings, ultimately throwing 7 shutout frames. Greg Holland loaded the bases in the 9th, but got a strikeout to close out a 1-0 win. The bats finally awoke on Sunday, led by Alex Gordon, who had 4 hits, including a pair of home runs (only his second and third of the year), helping Shields pick up his sixth win of the season as the Royals split the series.
Random Stat of the Week: The Kansas City bullpen has allowed only 5 home runs so far this season, a rate of 0.39 per 9 innings pitched. No AL team has allowed fewer than 28 (2002 Oakland A's) in the last 20 years. Those A's also had the lowest HR/9 by an AL team in the last 20 years, at 0.60.
Minnesota Twins (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins hosted Boston during the weekend. An early 5-1 lead on Tuesday was squandered, and the game was tied in the bottom of the 9th, until a walk-off blast by Chris Parmalee gave Minnesota an 8-6 win. Kevin Correia gave up 5 runs in 4 innings Wednesday and the bullpen didn't help any, and the Twins fell 9-4. Phil Hughes did well in the rubber match, but close Glen Perkins had a rare bad game, giving up 4 hits and allowing Boston to tie the game in the 9th. With two outs in the 10th though, Aaron Hicks singled in Kurt Suzuki with the game-winning run.
The weekend brought Seattle to town. Kyle Gibson gave up only 1 run in 7 innings on Friday. Josmil Pinto and Brain Dozier each homered in the win. Dozier went long again on Saturday and Samuel Deduno pitched well enough to help the Twins to a 4-3 win that pushed them above .500 for the first time in three weeks. They were unable to finish off the sweep though, as they took a 2-0 lead early, but gave up 6 runs over the final 6 innings and lost 6-2.
Random Stat of the Week: Brian Dozier leads the American League with 40 runs scored already. The last Twins player to lead the league in runs was Rod Carew in 1977, when he scored 128 of them.
Chicago White Sox (2-4)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox were in Oakland to begin their week. a town that has tortured them for over a decade now. Chicago lost the opener 5-4, despite Jose Abreu's 14th home of the year. They then got blown out 11-0 on Tuesday, getting a batter as far as second base only once all game. Andre Rienzo gave the Sox a quality start on Wednesday though, and long balls by Abreu and Gordon Beckham were enough for them to get one win out of the series. Going 1 for 3 actually represents a successful series for the Sox though, given the circumstances. Since 2001, they are now 16-41 in Oakland. They've been swept 6 times during that span, while winning only 4 of 19 series.
The next stop was Houston, which should have been easier, but proved not to be. A 3-run home run by Adam Dunn and four shutout innings from the bullpen helped Chicago to a 7-2 win Friday night, but they quickly fell behind on Saturday, and couldn't complete an attempted comeback, losing 6-5. Making matters worse, Abreu exited the game with a sore ankle, and had to be placed on the 15-day DL. John Danks couldn't survive the 5th inning on Sunday and the Sox fell 8-2, dropping them a season-worst 9 games out of 1st place.
Random Stat of the Week: The White Sox sure could use Chris Sale back. Their starting rotation's ERA (5.31) and FIP (4.64) are both the worst among all MLB teams.
Cleveland Indians (2-4)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians began their week in Toronto, where Justin Masterson struggled in the opener, allowing 5 runs in 5.1 innings as the Tribe lost 5-4. They bounced back in a big way Wednesday, putting up a season high 15 runs on 22 hits. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes each homered, while David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall became the first Indians with 5 hits apiece in the same game since 1932. Corey Kluber struck out 9 in 7 innings, allowing only 2 runs on baserunners in the 15-4 romp. In Thursday's rubber match, Danny Salazar lasted only 4 innings. The next day he was demoted to Triple-A. Trevor Bauer will be called up to join the rotation on Tuesday.
The Indians then returned home to face Oakland in what would become one of the most lop-sided series in recent history. Zach McAllister gave up 8 runs in the 2nd inning of an 11-1 loss in the opener. Saturday was a more pedestrian loss, by the score of 6-2. Sunday's finale was another rout; Masterson gave up 7 runs in 4.1 innings. His velocity is way down from this time a year ago, making me think he's injured (whether he knows it yet or not). A stream of relievers did little better, and the game ended 13-3. It's the first time the Indians have lost two games by 10+ runs in the same series at home since August of 1987.
Random Stat of the Week: The Indians are batting .212 against left-handed pitchers and have a .608 OPS against them. Not only are those the lowest figures in MLB right now, they're the lowest by any AL team since the DH was implemented in 1973.
Indians: Jason Giambi (DH) is out with a right calf strain, he could return on Tuesday; Jason Kipnis (2B) is on the DL with a strained right oblique, he could return at the end of this week; Nyjer Morgan (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a sprained right knee, no word yet on how long he might be out
Royals: Francisley Bueno (RP) is out with a sprained finger, he could be back this week; Bruce Chen (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a bulging disc, he could be back next week; Omar Infante (2B) was placed on the 15-day DL with back stiffness, he coud be back at the end of this week
Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is out while recovering from back surgery, he could return in June; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is out while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, he could join the team in June; Jose Iglesias (SS) is out with fractured shins, he could return in August; Luke Putkonen (RP) is out with right elbow inflammation, his rehab was stopped and doctors will reassess him this week
Twins: Sam Fuld (OF) is out with a concussion; he could be back this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is out with a strained left groin, he could be back this week; Josh Willingham (OF) is on the DL with a fractured left wrist, he could be back this week
White Sox: Jose Abreu (1B) was placed on the 15-day DL with tendonitis in his left ankle, he could return in early June; Nate Jones (RP) is out while recovering from back surgery, he could be back after the All-Star break; Felipe Paulino (SP) is out with right rotator cuff soreness, he could be back this week; Chris Sale (SP) is out with a left forearm strain, he is expected to return this week
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Michael Brantley (Cle) - .287/.354/.497, 141 wRC+, 175 PA 45 H 8 HR, 4 SB, 32 RBI
4) Miguel Cabrera (Det) - .316/.357/.532, 143 wRC+, 171 PA, 50 H, 13 2B, 7 HR, 39 RBI
3) Jose Abreu (Chi) - .260/.312/.595, 141 wRC+, 189 PA, 45 H, 11 2B, 15 HR, 42 RBI
2) Victor Martinez (Det) - .331/.378/.595, 158 wRC+, 164 PA, 49 H, 9 2B, 10 HR. 25 RBI
1) Brian Dozier (Min) - .257/.374/.479, 140 wRC+, 203 PA, 43 H, 11 HR, 40 R, 12 SB
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 vs. Tigers, 4 @ Orioles
Royals: 3 vs. White Sox, 3 @ Angels
Tigers: 3 @ Indians, 4 vs. Rangers
Twins: 2 @ Padres, 3 @ Giants
White Sox: 3 Royals, 4 vs. Yankees