AL Central Week in Review: Tigers in 1st, but Royals winning streak closes gap

Ed Zurga

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, June 15):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 36 29 - 292 284 +8
Royals 36 32 1.5 279 271 +8
Indians 35 35 3.5 312 326 -14
Twins 32 35 5 295 313 -18
White Sox 33 37 5.5 304 335 -31

The Royals are on fire, and have climbed as close to Detroit as any team in the division has been since the end of April. The Tigers haven't had a winning week since a 6-game winning streak ended on May 19, four weeks ago. If they don't put together a win record this week, they might find themselves looking up at someone in the standings in seven days.

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 were in Chicago during the week, and lost the series opener 6-5 after Rick Porcello ran into trouble in the middle innings and an attempted rally fell short. Miguel Cabrera, Eugenio Suarez, and Victor Martinez did all homer for Detroit. Tuesday's game was postponed by rain, but the Tigers lost again on Wednesday. Justin Verlander gave up 7 runs in 5.2 innings, and has now given up 5+ earned runs in five of his last six starts. Max Scherzer was charged with keeping Detroit from being swept, and boy was he up to the task, pitching the first complete game of his career (I'm very surprised he hadn't done that before), a 3-hit shutout. He's pretty good.

The Tigers returned home to face Minnesota next, but they were shut down Friday night, squandering a good pitching performance by Drew Smyly. On Saturday the bats came back to life, with 3 hits apiece for Martinez, Suarez (a single short of the cycle), Ian Kinsler, and Nick Castellanos. It was a laugher going into the late innings, but Detroit's bullpen (maybe the worst in baseball) struck again, letting a 10-run lead shrink all the way to 3 before finally closing the door. Porcello put in a quality start Sunday, and Martinez continued his strong week (and season) with another 2 hits, but it took a sacrifice fly off the bat of J.D. Martinez to give Detroit a 4-3 win.

Random Stat of the Week: The Tigers owe Justin Verlander $140 million from 2015-2019.

Kansas City Royals (5-0)

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

After the finale of a series against the Yankees was rained out on Monday, Kansas City hosted the Indians for a quick two-game set. Jason Vargas took a shutout into the 8th inning Tuesday, and while he and the bullpen ultimately allowed some runs to score, home runs by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas carried them to a 9-5 win. Yordano Ventura allowed only 1 run in 7 frames Wednesday, and 11 hits and well-timed fly balls brought KC a 4-1 win and a sweep of the short series.

It was then off to Chicago for the weekend. On Friday the Royals scored 5 runs in the 1st, and never looked back. Omar Infante had 3 hits in the 7-2 win, while Norichika Aoki and Billy Butler each had 2. Saturday's game was an even bigger romp, as Danny Duffy pitched 7 shutout innings, and seven different Royals had a multi-hit afternoon, led by Moustakas, who went 3 for 4 with his 6th home run of the season in a 9-1 victory. Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez each homered early on Sunday, and James Shields put in a decent 6 innings to give Kansas City a sweep of the series and a 7-game winning streak. They have the best run prevention in the division, and are a legitimate contender.

Random Stat of the Week: On Wednesday the Royals became the first team ever to win a game in which they scored 4+ runs, all coming on sacrifice flies.

Cleveland Indians (3-4)

SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe

The Indians wrapped up a 4-game series in texas to begin their week, and did it in style, winning 17-7 and getting historic nights from a pair of players. Michael Brantley tied the franchise record by scoring 5 runs, but Lonnie Chisenhall topped him by going 5 for 5 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI, maybe the greatest hitting performance in franchise history.

Next were two games in Kansas City. An error by Asdrubal Cabrera and shaky pitching from Corey Kluber combined to put the Tribe in a hole on Tuesday. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and David Murphy each drove in runs later on, but it was too little too late in a 9-5 loss. Brantley, Chisenhall, and Michael Bourn each had a pair of hits on Wednesday, but the team struggled with runners in scoring position, and fell 4-1.

The 10-game road trip concluded with four games at Fenway. The Tribe lost Thursday's game 5-2, having made two errors, gotten only so-so work from starter Josh Tomlin, and not much offense to speak of. On Friday Justin Masterson was pulled before retiring a hitter in the 3rd inning, having already walked 4 and allowed 5 runs. Santana homered, but Cleveland was routed 10-3. The Indians went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, but somehow managed a 3-2 win, snapping their 4-game losing streak. Santana had 3 hits on Sunday, Brantley and Nick Swisher each homered, and the bullpen delivered 5.2 shutout innings in another 3-2 win, salvaging a series split and a 5-5 record on the road trip.

Random Stat of the Week: Relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw are both on pace to break the franchise record for most games pitched in a season. Cody Allen is on pace to tie it.

Minnesota Twins (3-3)

SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town

The Twins traveled south to go north of the border and face Toronto during the week. Ricky Nolasco's struggles continued on Monday, as he gave up 4 runs in 5.2 innings and Minnesota lost, despite home runs from Danny Santana and Brian Dozier. They bounced back for a 4-0 win Tuesday, getting 6 shutout frames from Kevin Correia and another home run by Dozier. Phil Hughes pitched 7 shutout innings in Thursday's rubber match, and Minnesota got 3 hits from Josh Willingham (who recently returned from the DL) and Kendrys Morales (who recently joined the team), boosting thte team to a 7-2 win.

Next up was a weekend spent in Detroit. Kyle Gibson kept the string of good starts going, with 7 shutout innings, and Eduardo Escobar hit a solo home run and drove in a second run with a bases-loaded walk, giving the Twins a 2-0 win. Samuel Deduno didn't fare so well in his turn on Saturday, giving up 7 runs and exiting in the 3rd. Minnesota fell behind 11-7 before putting together a decent comeback, but lost 12-9. Escobar and Joe Mauer both had 2 hits in Sunday's series finale, and the game was tied late, but a 9th-inning error by Oswaldo Arcia put runners on the corners with one out, and a sac fly then cost Minnesota the game.

Random Stat of the Week: Over the last two months, Phil Hughes is 7-1 in 67.1 innings over 10 starts, with a 2.27 ERA, a 2.55 FIP, and 55 strikeouts against only 3 walks. He's gone 6+ innings in all 10 of those starts, having never done that four more than 4 consecutive starts until now.

Chicago White Sox (2-4)

SB Nation Site: South Side Sox

The White Sox hosted Detroit during the week, and started the series off with a 6-5 win, which featured Jose Abreu's 18th home run of the season and 3 hits by Gordon Beckham. Wednesday's game was postponed by rain, but on Wednesday Chicago picked up where they left off and won 8-2, as Abreay homered again, Adam Eaton tripled for the second game in a row, and John Danks pitch 7 strong innings. Chris Sale started Thursday's game, giving the Sox an excellent chance to sweep by allowing just 1 run in 7 innings, while striking out 10, but Chicago managed only 3 hits all night, and lost 4-0 after the bullpen allowed some late runs.

Next into town were the Royals, who trashed the White Sox 7-2 in the opener, after Jose Quintana allowed 5 runs in the 1st inning. Things got even worse on Saturday, when bad pitching and bad defense combined to allow 9 runs to score, while Paul Konerko's 4th home run of the year provided Chicago's only run in a lopsided affair. The offense livened up enough to collect a dozen hits in Sunday's finale, but left 13 men on base, leaving the White Sox with a 6-3 loss, having been swept into the division's cellar.

Random Stat of the Week: Jose Abreu has a fantastic .603 slugging percentage, but a below average .320 on-base percentage. Those figures give him a 1.88 SLG:OBP ratio, which would be the second highest among qualified hitters in MLB history, behind only Matt Williams in 1994, whose .607 SLG and .319 OBP gave him a 1.90 ratio.

Injuries

Indians: Jason Giambi (DH) was placed on the 15-day DL with knee with left knee inflammation, he could return in late June, but will hopefully retire a take a coaching position instead; Zach McAllister (SP) is on the DL with a lower back strain, he is expected to return this week; Nyjer Morgan (OF) is on the DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break

Royals: Bruce Chen (SP) is on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back, he could return this week; Danny Valencia (3B) is on the DL with a muscle strain in his left hand, 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 early July; Jose Iglesias (SS) is on the DL with fractured shins, the Tigers announced he will not return this season; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the DL with right elbow inflammation, and underwent surgery on Friday, he could return in late August

Twins: Aaron Hicks (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain, a possible return date is TBD; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the DL with an elbow injury which he underwent surgery for last week, he could return in August; Trevor Plouffe (3B) was placed on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return in late June

White Sox: Nate Jones (RP) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could be back after the All-Star break; Matt Lindstrom is on the DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return in August; Felipe Paulino (SP) is on the DL with right rotator cuff soreness, a possible return date is TBD

Player Power Poll

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

Hitters

5) Brian Dozier (MIN) - .242/.353/.461 in 306 PA, 129 wRC+, 15 HR, 14 SB, 55 R

4) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .324/.373/.557 in 279 PA, 154 wRC+, 82 H, 23 2B, 55 RBI

3) Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) - .371/.424/.584 in 202 PA, 187 wRC+, 66 H, 17 2B, 32 RBI

2) Victor Martinez (DET) - .333/.389/.610 in 275 PA, 168 wRC+, 82 H, 17 2B, 17 HR

1) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .322/.390/.519 in 295 PA, 160 wRC+, 85 H, 1 HR, 9 SB

The Week Ahead

Indians: 4 vs. Angels, 3 vs. Tigers

Royals: 4 @ Tigers, 3 vs. Mariners

Tigers: 4 vs. Royals, 3 @ Indians

Twins: 3 @ Red Sox, 4 vs. White Sox

White Sox: 2 vs. Giants, 4 @ Twins

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