AL Central Week in Review (April 28-May 4): Tigers pull ahead of the pack

Jason Miller

A look at last week's action for the Indians and their division rivals, with highlights, lowlights, injuries, schedules, and more...


AL Central standings (through Sunday, May 4):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 17 9 - 130 103 +27
Twins 14 15 4.5 149 147 +2
White Sox 15 17 5 163 167 -4
Royals 14 16 5 116 129 -13
Indians 13 18 6.5 123 141 -18

After tightly bunched standings through the season's first four weeks, Detroit pulled into a comfortable lead this week by winning all of its games while everyone else posted a losing record.

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

Detroit Tigers (5-0)

SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys

The Tigers had Monday and Thursday off this week, with two games in Chicago in between. Backup catcher Bryan Holaday put down a beautiful bunt with two outs in the 9th inning to score the winning run on Tuesday, while Max Scherzer pitched 6 shutout innings and Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera each picked up a pair of hits in Wednesday's win.

The road trip continued in Kansas City, where the Tigers romped. Friday featured good pitching by Rick Porcello and three hits for Victor Martinez, Saturday brought 7 shutout innings from Drew Smyly and 7 extra-base hits from seven different hitters, and Sunday saw Justin Verlander improve his record to 4-1 and Alex Avila hit his second home run of the weekend. Detroit now has the best record in the American League.

Random Stat of the Week: Tigers starting pitchers have allowed only 10 home runs all season, and 0.57 home runs per 9 innings. Both those figures are the best of any rotation in MLB.

Minnesota Twins (2-4)

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The Twins hosted the Dodgers during the week. Tuesday's opener was postponed due to freezing rain, leading to a Thursday doubleheader. Sunday's game against Detroit was also postponed, and Monday was a scheudled off day, so Minnesota went three straight days without playing. Too bad for them they started back up, as they were swept by LA (Wednesday's game was the 10,000 victory in Dodgers history). Joe Mauer had 6 hits in the series, raising his average from .266 to .292.

Minnesota hosted Baltimore next, and after losing the opener 3-0 (Ricky Nolasco pitched a complete game for the Twins), they bounced back to take the series with wins on Saturday and Sunday. Mauer had another 3 hits on Saturday, but left Sunday's game early due to back spasms. Kevin Correia and Phil Hughes both pitched very well, making this the most successful series of the season for the starting rotation.

Random Stat of the Week: Trevor Plouffe already has 14 doubles on the year, the most by any hitter in MLB.

Kansas City Royals (2-4)

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The Royals took 2 of 3 from Toronto during the week. KC trailed in the 8th inning of Tuesday's opener, but scored 6 runs in that frame to pull out the win. Rookie Yordano lasted only 5 innings on Wednesday, but didn't allow any runs, and Alcides Escobar drove in the go-ahead runs with a 7th-inning double. The Royals were unable to finish the sweep though, falling 7-3 on Thursday.

Next up for Kansas City was a weekend set with Detroit. James Shields gave up 8 runs on 12 hits Friday, while the offense put only 4 men on base all night. Saturday and Sunday's games were just as lopsided. Jason Vargas gave up 7 runs on 11 hits Sunday, his second bad start of the week. His ERA was 1.54 at the start of the week; it now stands at 3.50. For the series, the Royals were outscored 26-8. They went from 2 games back of the Tigers to 5.

Random Stat of the Week: Mike Moustakas has a .151 batting average, which is the second worst in baseball among 187 qualified hitters.

Chicago White Sox (2-4)

SB Nation Site: South Side Sox

The White Sox began their week by finishing up a weekend series with a win at home over Tampa Bay. Things took a turn for the worse when Detroit rolled into town next, as Chicago lost both games while scoring only 4 totals runs. Jose Quintana struck out 10 on Tuesday, and Jose Abreu picked up his 20th extra-base hit of the season on Wednesday, but those were about the only Sox highlights of the short two-game set.

The weekend brought a trip to Cleveland. Chicago lost on Friday when John Danks was shelled, then lost on Saturday when the offense couldn't score any runs. Sunday was headed the same direction, with the White Sox behind 3-1 heading into the 9th, but with two men on base Dayan Viciedo blasted a 3-run homer to put them ahead, and they held on for the win, keeping them out of the AL Central basement. Jose Abreu hit his 11th and 12th home runs during the series, and continues to lead MLB.

Random Stat of the Week: White Sox starting pitchers have walked 4.48 batters per 9 innings, the highest rate of any team in baseball. Their Starters (3.89) and their relievers (5.47) are both dead last in MLB.

Cleveland Indians (2-4)

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The Indians finished up a California road trip by getting swept in Anaheim, leaving them with a 6-game losing streak. Starters Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, and Zach McAllister each struggled. Making matters worse, Jason Kipnis left Tuesday's game with a strained oblique, and had to be placed on the disabled list. He may miss a month. The lone bright spot of the series was Carlos Santana, who ended a three-week slump by collecting 4 hits, including 2 home runs.

The Indians returned home to face the White Sox, and the offense got going in a big way Friday night, with home runs by Santana and Michael Brantley leading the way in a 12-5 win. The bats went quiet again Saturday, but with Justin Masterson pitching 7.1 shutout innings, a pair of unearned runs for the Tribe were enough for a 2-0 win. Backup catcher George Kottaras homered in his first two at bats as an Indian on Sunday, and Cleveland was poised for its first sweep of the season, but closer John Axford blew the save opportunity, leaving the Tribe with a 4-3 loss.

Random Stat of the Week: Indians hitters didn't strike out even once in Saturday's game, which is a very rare feat in this day and age. The Indians are the first team to pull that off in 2013. It's also the first time the Indians have done that since 2006.

Injuries

Indians: Jason Kipnis (2B) was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique, he hopes to be back in three weeks; Michael Bourn (OF, left hamstring tightness) and Jason Giambi (CP*, old-man syndrome) are both day to day.

*Clubhouse Presence

Royals: Francisley Bueno (P) is out with a sprained finger, he could be back this week; Lorenzo Cain (OF) is out with a left groin strain, he could be back this week; Bruce Chen (SP) was placed on the 15-day DL with a bulging disc, he will be out until at least late May

Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is out til at least June with a back injury; Joel Hanrahan (RP) was signed and placed on the 15-day DL as he wraps up his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he's could join the team in June; Jose Iglesias(SS) is out til at least August with fractured shins; Luke Putkonen (RP) is out with right elbow inflammation; Anibal Sanchez (SP) is out with finger laceration, he could be back next week

Twins: Oswaldo Arcia (OF) is out with a strained wrist, he could return next week; Aaron Hicks (OF) was placed on the 7-day DL with a concussion, he could be back this weekend; Joe Mauer is day to day with lower back spasms;Mike Pelfrey was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left groin, he will be out at least two weeks; Josh Willingham (OF) is out with a fractured left wrist, he could be back next week

White Sox: Adam Eaton (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain; Conor Gillaspie (3B) is out with a left hand contusion, he could be back this week; Nate Jones (RP) 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 be back this week; 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 could be back this week

Player Power Poll

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

Hitters

5) Trevor Plouffe (Min) - 283/.383/.451, 135 wRC+, 14 2B, 20 R, 22 RBI

4) Dayan Viciedo (Chi) - .330/.393/.520, 148 wRC+, 33 H, 11 2B, 15 R

3) Adam Dunn (Chi) - .273/.409/.500, 150 wRC+, 5 HR, 18.2% walk rate

2) Brian Dozier (Min) - .248/.373/.462, 136 wRC+, 8 HR, 23 BB, 11 for 12 on SB

1) Jose Abreu (Chi) - .258/.319/.617, 146 wRC+, 12 HR, 21 XBH, 22 R, 34 RBI

Who'd have thunk that more than a month into the season, the division's top offensive players would all come from the White Sox and Twins?

The Week Ahead

Indians: 4 vs. Twins, 3 @ Rays

Royals: 3 @ Padres, 4 @ Mariners

Tigers: 4 vs. Astros, 3 vs. Twins

Twins: 4 @ Indians, 3 @ Tigers

White Sox: 2 @ Cubs, 2 vs. Cubs, 3 vs Diamondbacks

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