AL Central standings (through Sunday, May 25):
The Tigers had their worst week of the season while the Indians were the class of the division. Detroit still has a comfortable lead over the rest, but nearly as comfortable as it was seven days ago. The other four teams could hardly be more bunched together.
Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week, with highlights, lowlights, injury updates, and more:
Detroit Tigers (1-6)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers were in Cleveland with a chance to bury the Tribe (holding a 10.5 game lead over them). A pinch-hit home run by J.D. Martinez tied the opener in the 9th, but Detroit lost in the 10th. Justin Verlander gave up 5 runs in the first two innings on Tuesday and Detroit lost again. On Wednesday it was Max Scherzer's turn to struggle early, allowing 7 runs in the first three innings. The Tigers battled back and took a 9-7 lead into the 9th though... but Joe Nathan blew the lead. Detroit took the lead again in the 13th, but Phil Coke couldn't hold on. Al Alburquerque came in to try and extend the game further, but balked in the game-losing run.
Things didn't go much better back home against Texas. Robbie Ray was shelled in a series-opening loss, but Anibal Sanchez gave the Tigers a much-needed strong start Friday, while Austin Jackson and Andrew Romine each homered to pace a 7-2 win. On Saturday though, Rick Porcello was hit even harder than Ray had been and Detroit lost 12-2. The series finale brought more of the same, this time with Verlander back on the mound. He gave up 9 runs (6 earned) in 5.1 innings, continuing a very rough stretch. Victor Martinez had 2 hits, retaking the lead in the AL battin race from teammate Ian Kinsler, but the week could hardly have gone worse for Detroit.
Random Stat of the Week: Justin Verlander has now given up at least 5 earned runs in three consecutive starts for only the second time in his career, and the first time since 2008.
Kansas City Royals (2-4)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals hosted the White Sox during the week, and after jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the 1st inning Monday, they went on to lose after Jason Vargas slowly gave up 7 runs in 4.2 innings, wasting 3 hits by Billy Butler. They lost again the next day, when a 3-run homer allowed by reliever Aaron Crow put them in too deep a whole to dig out of. Jeremy Guthrie allowed only 1 run over 7 innings in Wednesday's series finale, and KC was able to avoid being swept. Meanwhile, third baseman Mike Moustakas, once among the top ten prospects in baseball, was demoted to Triple-A Omaha.
The weekend brought a trip to Orange County. The series opener was a 7-1 loss for Kansas City, as Danny Duffy gave up hits throughout his 6 innings and the lineup never got anything going. The Royals rebounded for a 7-4 win in 13 innings Saturday. James Shields was not especially sharp, but the offense did enough to prolong things and eventually pushed them over the top. Eric Hosmer led the team with 4 hits and scored a pair of runs. KC took an early 3-0 lead and looked set to win the series, but the bullpen, which has been such a strength for the Royals the last couple years, couldn't hold on, leaving them with a 4-3 loss.
Random Stat of the Week: The Royals have hit only 20 home runs all season, putting them on pace for just 66. No Al team has hit fewer than 100 since the strike-shortened 1994 season. No AL team has hit fewer than 70 in a full season since 1976.
Minnesota Twins (2-3)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins had the rare week with only five scheduled games. They began in San Diego with a 5-3 win. Chris Parmalee started the scoring with a 2nd-inning home run, Kurt Suzuki finished it with an inside-the-park job. Minnesota swept the short series with a 2-0 win on Wednesday. Phil Hughes pitched 7 shutout innings, and is pitching better than he has in years.
After a day spent cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway (okay, probably not), the Twins spent the weekend in San Francisco. Things there did not go well. Kyle Gibson was roughed up on Friday and the offense left 10 men on base in a 6-2 loss. Sadly, that was as well as the lineup would do all weekend. On Saturday they squandered good pitch by Samuel Deduno and the bullpen in 2-1 loss, on Sunday there was nothing to squander, as Ricky Nolasco continued to look like MLB's worst free-agent signing of the offseason, giving up 7 runs in 4.2 innings as the Twins were swept.
Random Stat of the Week: The two worst ERAs in all of MLB (among qualified pitchers) belong to Minnesota. Kevin Correia is in dead last at 6.52, the $49-million Ricky Nolasco is next at 6.12.
Chicago White Sox (4-3)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox were in Kansas City to begin their week. Scott Carroll continued to show he's not ready to be an MLB starter, giving up 5 runs in the 1st inning Monday, but Chicago rallied back for a 7-6 win on the back of strong bullpen work and home runs by Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Paul Konerko. They won by an identical score on Tuesday, with Tyler Flowers and Adam Dunn both homering. The bats went quiet in the final game of the series though, and despite a solid start by Jose Quintana, the Sox were defeated.
Thursday was a day for celebration on Chicago's South Side, as Chris Sale returned from the DL with a dominant performance, striking out 10 in 6 shutout innings, allowing just 1 baserunner along the way in a win over the Yankees. The Sox won again Friday night, this time on a 2-run walk-off homer by Dunn in the 9th. John Danks pitched 8 shutout innings on Saturday, with Adam Eaton and Gordon Beckham each collecting 3 hits. Ronald Belisario blew the lead though, and Chicago then lost in the 10th. Then they fell behind early on Sunday and never got back back into it, leaving them with a very disappointing split series.
Random Stat of the Week: White Sox pitchers are walking 4.23 batters per 9 innings, easily the most in MLB (Toronto is a distant second at 3.77)
Cleveland Indians (5-2)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians were on the verge of irrelevance as the week began with three games at home against the Tigers. Cody Allen blew a save opportunity in the 9th inning Monday, but Michael Brantley saved the day with a walk-off home run in the 10th. Trevor Bauer finally joined the rotation on Tuesday (after a few spot starts during the previous 13 months), and put in a quality start. The offense took an early lead and never looked back in a 6-2 win. Thursday's game was all over the place. Zach McAllister lasted only two innings, giving up 5 runs, and the Tribe trailed in the 9th, but David Murphy tied it with a 2-run blast. They fell behind again in the 13th, but rallied. A Brantley single tying the game, and then the winning run coming across on the rare walk-off balk.
Next was a trip to Baltimore. On Thursday the Indians became only the 13th team in the last 100 years to win games in 13+ innings on back-to-back days, with an 8-7 win that featured 3 hits by Michael Bourn and a go-ahead double in the 13th by Carlos Santana. Jason Giambi became only the 9th 43-year-old in MLB history to homer on Friday, but that wasn't enough to avoid an 8-4 loss. Seven shutout innings by Corey Kluber and Santana's 6th home run of the season led Cleveland to a 9-0 victory Saturday, but they were unable to take the series Sunday, as the bats quieted and Bauer struggled. Still, the Indians made up 4 games on Detroit, and is back in the thick of things.
Random Stat of the Week: Corey Kluber leads the American League with a 2.22 FIP. In the last 20 years, the only Indians pitcher with a FIP below 3.00 was Cliff Lee in his Cy Young winning 2008 season.
Indians: Jason Kipnis (2B) is on the DL with a strained right oblique, he is expected back on Tuesday; Nyjer Morgan (OF) was moved to the 60-day DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break; Zach McAllisterwas placed on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain, he could return next week
Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return in late June; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, he could join the team in June; Jose Iglesias (SS) is on the DL with fractured shins, he could return in August; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the DL with right elbow inflammation; he will not need surgery, but no timetable for his return has been announced
Twins: Sam Fuld (OF) is on the DL with a concussion; he could be back this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the DL with a strained left groin, he could be back this week; Josh Willingham (OF) is on the DL with a fractured left wrist, he will return today (Monday)
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 on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could be back after the All-Star break; Matt Lindstrom was placed on the 15-day DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return in August; Felipe Paulino (SP) is on the DL with right rotator cuff soreness, he could return this week
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Chris Sale (Chi) - 1.89 ERA, 1.92 FIP, 222 ERA+, 33.1 IP, 10.5 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
4) James Shields (KC) - 2.95 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 142 ERA+, 73.1 IP, 7.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
3) Phil Hughes (Min) - 3.15 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 129 ERA+, 54.1 IP, 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9
2) Max Scherzer (Det) - 2.59 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 162 ERA+, 66.0 IP, 10.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
1) Corey Kluber (Cle) - 3.10 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 122 ERA+, 72.2 IP, 10.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 @ White Sox, 3 vs. Rockies
Royals: 3 vs. Astros, 4 @ Blue Jays
Tigers: 4 @ Athletics, 3 @ Mariners
Twins: 4 vs. Rangers, 3 @ Yankees
White Sox: 3 vs. Indians, 3 vs. Padres