AL Central Week in Review: Tigers stumble and division standings remain close

Brian Kersey

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 1):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 31 22 - 240 223 +17
White Sox 29 29 4.5 265 277 -12
Twins 26 28 5.5 230 249 -19
Indians 27 30 6 248 267 -19
Royals 26 30 6.5 213 236 -23

The Tigers had another mediocre week, keeping the division fairly bunched together as the calendar changes to June. The AL Central now has the worst run differential of any division in either league.

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

Detroit Tigers (3-4)

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The Tigers were in Oakland for four games, the first of which was a 10-0 loss. Drew Smyly was hit hard and the offense managed only 5 hits. Things were much closer the next night. Max Scherzer was not especially sharp, but home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter helped provide just enough scoring for a 6-5 win. Hunter homered again in Wednesday, and the Tigers led 1-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Anibal Sanchez was pulled with one out, after allowing a double, and closer Joe Nathan gave up a walk-off home run two batters later. Detroit managed to earn a series split in the finale, but Nathan allowed another two runs in the 9th, and is looking shaky again.

It was of to Seattle for the weekend. Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Rajai Davis all homered Friday night, and Justin Verlander pitched 7.1 solid innings and picked up the win. Smyly lasted only 4 innings the next day, having thrown 105 pitches already and given up 3 runs. The bullpen held the Mariners there the rest of the game, but a Cabrera solo shot and a wild pitch with a man on third provided Detroit's only runs in a 3-2 loss. On Sunday the offense crashed, mustering just 3 hits and getting a runner as far as second base only once all game in a 4-0 loss.

Random Stat of the Week: The Tigers have stolen 40 bases so far, putting them on pace for 122. That would be the team's highest total since 2001, and tied for its fifth highest total since 1934.

Chicago White Sox (4-2)

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The White Sox began their week by hosting the Indians for three games. Dayan Viciedo put Chicago ahead early with a 3-run homer, and Jose Quintana and three relievers made the lead stand up in a win. The Sox lost Chris Sale after only three innings Tuesday, because of a long rain delay, but Scott Carroll pitched three shutout frames in relief and Gordon Beckham's 4th home run of the year led Chicago to another victory. Hector Noesi pitched 7.1 strong innings in the series finale, and three late runs gave the Sox a sweep, pushing them back above .500 for the first time in three weeks.

The homestand continued with the Padres rolling into town. John Danks pitched well in the opener, but the Sox only had 4 hits all game and lost. Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez each had two hits on Saturday, but overall the offense was a no-show again, and Chicago lost 4-2. They were able to avoid being swept though, on account of having Chris Sale to send to the mound. He pitched a complete game on 100 pitches, striking out 9 and allowing only 1 run. The White Sox were leading the league in runs at one point, but have now averaged fewer than 3 a game over their last 11 contests.

Random Stat of the Week: Alexei Ramirez's 72 hits put him on pace for 201. The only White Sox player to reach 200 hits since 1954 was Albert Belle in 1998, who had exactly 200.

Minnesota Twins (3-4)

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The Twins hosted Texas for a four-game set during the week. Kevin Correia allowed 4 runs in 7 innings in the opener, but beyond a Trevor Plouffe homer, Minnesota couldn't manage much offense, and lost 7-2. Phil Hughes continued his strong season with a quality start Tuesday and a 9th-inning rally capped by a game-ending error by Texas reliever Joakim Soria gave the Twins a win. Kyle Gibson pitched 6 shutout frames in the next game, but Minnesota left 9 men on base in a 1-0 loss. The series finale was another 1-run loss, despite three hits apiece for Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana.

Next came a trip to the Bronx. Ricky Nolasco made one of his better starts of the season Friday night, and home runs by Arcia, Plouffe, and Josh Willingham powered the Twins to a win. A good start by Correia on Saturday was wasted when the offense could manage only 4 hits all game, but the lineup came back to life in Sunday's rubber match, as Willingham homered and Arcia and Plouffe each had a pair of hits. Phil Hughes' return to Yankee Stadium went well, as he allowed only 2 runs in 8 innings and improved his record to 6-1 as Minnesota took the series.

Random Stat of the Week: Trevor Plouffe is tied for the league lead with 20 doubles, putting him on pace for 60 of them. The franchise record for doubles is 51, set by Mickey Vernon in 1946.

Cleveland Indians (3-3)

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The Indians were in Chicago for three games during the week. Monday's opener turned on a 3rd-inning error by Lonnie Chisenhall that extended the inning long enough for Josh Tomlin to give up a 3-run blast, turning a lead into a deficit in what became a 6-2 loss. The Tribe fell again Tuesday, failing to pick up any extra-base hits for the third game in a row, the first time since 1991 that the Cleveland offense has done that. A Jason Giambi home run on Wednesday broke that streak, but it was still another weak showing by the bats, and the Indians were swept out of town having scored only 5 runs in 3 games.

The Tribe returned home to face the Rockies over the weekend. Corey Kluber struck out 12 in 7.1 innings in the opener, a 5-2 win for Cleveland (in the process, Kluber finished off the greatest strikeout month in franchise history) that included a 2-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera. Mike Aviles and Chisenhall each homered on Saturday, helping the Indians take a 6-2 lead through 6 innings, with Trevor Bauer pitching well. The bullpen quickly blew the lead in the 7th, but Aviles singled in Jason Kipnis (who returned this week after missing a month) with what proved to be the game winner. Sunday was a very similar story, as the Tribe blew a 7th-inning lead. In the 9th though, Michael Bourn hit his 2nd home run of the season to win the game and sweep Colorado.

Random Stat of the Week: Indians third basemen have already made 17 errors, which puts them on pace for 48 of them. No MLB team has had that many errors in a season since the 1972 Dodgers.

Kansas City Royals (2-5)

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The Royals hosted Houston for what seemed a good chance to pick up at least a couple wins, but Houston had other ideas. KC starter Yordano Ventura was rocked early in the opener, eventually leaving with elbow pain that also caused him to miss his weekend start. The on Tuesday the Royals managed only 5 hits (all singles) in a 3-0 loss, with their last 14 hitters being retired in order. The lineup wasn't much livelier Wednesday, and Danny Duffy made sure the Royals never had much of a chance by allowing 5 runs in the first 3 innings as KC was broomsticked.

Next the Royals went north of the border for four games in Toronto. 8 runs on 14 hits Thursday carried Kansas City to victory, despite James Shields allowing 6 runs. Jason Vargas was much sharper in his start on Friday, and home runs from Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain provided plenty of offense in a 6-1 win. Things took a different turn on Saturday, when Aaron Brooks (making his first MLB start) gave up 7 runs before being pulled in the 1st inning and the Royals were massacred 12-2. Then the offense was dominated on Sunday, leaving Kansas City with a 4-0 loss and a split series, which also dropped them into the division's cellar.

Random Stat of the Week: Salvador Perez leads the Royals with 5 home runs, putting him on pace for 14. The last American League without anyone with 15 home runs was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti's 12.


Injuries

Indians: Nyjer Morgan (OF) is on the DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break; Zach McAllister is on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain, he could return next week; Carlos Santana (3B) was placed on the DL with a concussion, he could return this week; Nick Swisher (1B) was placed on the DL with a hyper extended left knee, he could return next week

Royals: Bruce Chen (SP) is on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back, he could be back this week; Danny Valencia (3B) was placed on the DL with a muscle strain in his left hand, he could return in mid June; Yordano Ventura (SP) exited a game early with a sore elbow and missed his next start, but has not been placed on the DL

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 mid 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 could return next week

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; Daniel Santana (SS) missed time with a cut over his eye, he is not expected to go on the DL

White Sox: Jose Abreu (1B) is on the DL with tendonitis in his left ankle, he will return today; 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, he could return next week

Player Power Poll

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

Hitters

5) Alexei Ramirez (CWS) - .329/.361/.479, 131 wRC+, 234 PA, 72 H, 7 HR, 11 SB

4) Jose Abreu (CWS) - .260/.312/.595, 142 wRC+, 189 PA, 11 2B, 15 HR, 42 RBI

3) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .332/.377/.569, 157 wRC+, 223 PA, 18 2B, 10 HR, 49 RBI

2) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .303/.368/.500, 147 wRC+, 231 PA, 9 HR, 8 SB, 39 RBI

1) Victor Martinez (DET) - .340/.393/.604, 166 wRC+, 219 PA, 67 H, 13 2B, 13 HR

The Week Ahead

Indians: 3 vs. Red Sox, 4 @ Rangers (ending Monday)

Royals: 2 @ Cardinals, 2 vs. Cardinals, 4 vs. Yankees (ending Monday)

Tigers: 3 vs. Blue Jays, 3 vs. Red Sox

Twins: 2 @ Brewers, 2 vs. Brewers, 3 vs. Astros

White Sox: 3 @ Dodgers, 3 @ Angels

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