AL Central Week in Review: Tigers fall out of 1st place, then take it back

David Maxwell

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 22):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 40 32 - 328 321 +7
Royals 39 36 2.5 311 297 +14
Indians 37 39 5 336 362 -26
Twins 36 38 5 316 332 -16
White Sox 35 41 7 333 362 -29

The Royals took control of 1st place on Wednesday, but by the end of Friday they'd given it back, and by the end of the week they were in a worse spot than they' started in.

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

Detroit Tigers (4-3)

SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys

The Tigers hosted 2nd place Kansas City for four games, and dropped the opener 11-8 after Justin Verlander's awful stretch continued (6 bad games in 7 starts), and a 9th-inning rally fell a bit short. Things were veen worse on Tuesday, when Max Scherzer allowed a career-high 10 earned runs in 4+ innings, dropping Detroit out of 1st place for the first time in more than two months. Drew Smyly pitcher well for 7 innings Wednesday, giving the Tigers a chance to win, but the offense wasn't up to the task, and they fell 2-1. Things were little better in Thursday's finale, but a little better was enough. Anibal Sanchez was great, J.D. Martinez hit his second home run of the series, Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 9th, and Detroit avoided the sweep with a 2-1 win.

Next up was a weekend series in Cleveland, who also had a chance to pull ahead of the Tigers. Instead Detroit reasserted itself. Rick Porcello pitched 6 scoreless frames Friday night, and both J.D. and Victor Martinez homered in a 6-4 win. Verlander turned things around with 7 good innings Saturday, and Victor, Rajai Davis, and Ian Kinsler all homered, but bad Joe Nathan struck again in the 9th, sending the game to extra innings. Miguel Cabrera doubled in a run in the 10th though, and Detroit picked up another win. Scherzer rebounded from his terrible game on Tuesday and the offense manhandled Cleveland in a 10-4 win that gave Detroit the sweep.

Random Stat of the Week: Victor Martinez has feasted on the Indians ever since  he was traded away. After this weekend he has a line of .362/.432/.602 in 234 plate appearances against the Tribe. His 1.035 OPS against them is easily his best against any American League opponent.

Kansas City Royals (3-4)

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

The Royals were in Detroit for four games during the week. An outburst of offense staked KC to an 11-2 lead heading into the 9th of Monday's opener, and while the bullpen let it become a real game, they held on for an 11-8 lead, and seven different players had multiple hits. Tuesday featured the same level of offense, including home runs by Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, in an 11-4 win that pushed the Royals into 1st place, the first time they've been there this far into a season since 2003. The offense quieted Wednesday, an Omar Infante home run the team's only extra-base hit, but that was enough, as Jeremy Guthrie and three relievers combined to allow just 1 run on 5 hits in a 2-1 victory. Danny Duffy pitched a nice game in the finale, but the offense struggled again, and this time Kansas City was on the losing side of a 2-1 score. Still, it was a very successful series for them.

The Royals returned home triumphantly, but the weekend series against Settle would knock them back on their heels. KC fell behind 5-0 Friday night, as James Shields struggled, but they fought back to tie the game after Moustakas and Salvador Perez both homered. Greg Holland allowed a pair in the 9th though, leading to a 7-5 loss that dropped them back into 2nd place. Jason Vargas gave up just 2 runs in 8.2 innings Saturday, but on a quiet afternoon for the lineup, that second run was the difference maker in a 2-1 loss. Sunday brought another  2-1 loss, and put the Royals 2.5 games back of Detroit, a wider margin than before the week started.

Random Stat of the Week: Every MLB has struck out in at least 18% of its plate appearances this season... except for the Royals, who are at just 15.3%, giving them a massive lead in that category. Strikeout rates keep rising every season, and KC's current mark would be the lowest by any MLB team since 2011.

Cleveland Indians (2-4)

SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe

The Indians returned home from a 10-game road trip to host the Angels. Trevor Bauer worked around 8 hits and 4 walks to get through 6.2 decent innings, and home runs by Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana helped the Tribe to a 4-3 win. Tuesday was a different story. Lonnie Chisenhall continued his excellent season at the plate with 2 hits, including a home run, but Josh Tomlin was hit hard, sending Cleveland to a 9-3 loss. After a rainout on Wednesday, Thursday's game went to extra innings, despite Justin Masterson allowing just 1 run in 7 innings. The Indians fell behind in the 10th, but in the bottom half Nick Swisher hit a walk-off grand slam (which was the 9th walk-off grand slam in Progressive Field history).

Next into town were the Tigers. Corey Kluber gave up only 2 runs in 7 innings in the opener, but John Axford allowed another 3 in the 8th, and a rally that included home runs by Cabrera and Santana fell short. Trevor Bauer was left in too long Saturday, turning an okay start into a bad one with two home runs allowed in the 7th. The Indians scored in the 8th and 9th, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity to score more than one run either inning and had to settle for extras, where they lost 5-4. Sunday included no such drama, as Josh Tomlin was hit hard, the awful defense made another 3 errors, and the Tribe was blown out 10-4.

Random Stat of the Week: Carlos Santana spent much of April and May in a bad slump, but in June he's sporting a wRC+ of 205, second in the American League to only Mike Trout.

Minnesota Twins (4-3)

SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town

The Twins were in Boston for three ultimately very frustrating games. On Monday Minnesota managed only 3 hits and didn't score any runs, wasting great pitching by Kevin Correia in a 1-0 loss. Phil Highes continued his career year by allowing only 2 runs in 8 innings Tuesday, with 6 strikeouts and 0 walks, but the offense was tepid again, and the Twins lost 2-1. Kyle Gibson did is part on Wednesday, tossing 7 shutout frames, but the games went to extra innings, still scoreless. Chris Parmalee homered in the top of the 10th, but reliever Casey Fien allowed back-to-back homers in the bottom half, leaving Minnesota with it's third consecutive one-run loss.

The Twins returned to lick their wounds and try and recuperate against the White Sox. After ten years in the minor leagues, Yohan Pino made his MLB debut Thursday, and allowed only 2 runs in 7 innings, leading Minnesota to a 4-2 win. Ricky Nolasco gave up 2 runs in 5.1 innings in the next game, which counts as one of his best starts with the Twins. Kurt Suzuki had 3 hits in a 5-4 win. Then on Saturday Joe Mauer turned a deficit into a lead with a two-run double in the 5th and Minnesota held on for a 4-3 win. The Twins finished the sweep despite Phil Hughes giving up 5 runs in 5 innings Sunday, powered by a pair of doubles by Sam Fuld.

Random Stat of the Week: The Twins have a 9.7% walk rate, which is second in MLB, and would be the team's highest figure since 1962, their second season in Minnesota.

Chicago White Sox (2-4)

SB Nation Site: South Side Sox

The White Sox hosted the Giants for a pair during the week, and took the first one 8-2 on the strength of a solid outing by John Danks and home runs from Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo. Chris Sale made a quality start on Wednesday, and Chicago's lineup had its way with San Francisco starter Tim Hudson (who's been having a great season), touching him up for 7 runs on 12 hits, including home runs by Jose Abreu (his 20th) and Adam Dunn (his 12th).

Next up were four games in Minnesota. Jose Quintana pitched well in the opener, but reliever Jake Petricka allowed two to score in the 8th, providing the margin in a 4-2 loss. On Friday Beckham and Abreu each homered, but those shots weren't enough to prevent a 5-4 defeat. Beckham drove in another to runs Saturday, using a hit-by-pitch and sacrifice fly, but there wasn't much other offense and the Pale Hose fell again as Andre Rienzo gave up 4 runs in 4.1 innings. The loss dropped Chicago into the division's basement. The series was capped with another close defeat on Sunday, after Danks struggled on the mound. 4 games, 4 losses by a total of 5 runs. That's a rough weekend.

Random Stat of the Week: The White Sox lead the American League with a .312 BABIP. If that figure were to hold, it would also be the highest BABIP in franchise history, edging out their .311 BABIP from 1920.

Injuries

Indians: Jason Giambi (DH) is on the 15-day DL with knee with left knee inflammation, he could return next week; Nyjer Morgan (OF) is on the DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break

Royals: Norichika Aoki (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL witha strained groin, a possible return is TBD; Bruce Chen (SP) is on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back, he is expected back this week

Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return next week; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, he could join the team in early July; Torii Hunter has been out of the lineup for a few days with hamstring soreness, but is not expected to go on the DL; Ian Krol was placed on the 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation, he could return in early July; 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) is on the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain, he could return this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the DL with an elbow injury, he could return in August; Eduardo Nunez is on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain, he could return next week; Trevor Plouffe (3B) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return next week

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)

Pitchers

5) Max Scherzer - 104.1 IP, 3.71 ERA, 112 ERA+, 3.15 FIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

4) Corey Kluber - 103.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 114 ERA+, 2.76 FIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

3) Anibal Sanchez - 69.2 IP, 2.33 ERA, 178 ERA+, 2.44 FIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

2) Chris Sale - 65.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 185 ERA+, 2.18 FIP, 10.3 K/9, 1.4 BB/9

1) Phil Hughes - 95.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 118 ERA+, 2.64 FIP, 7.7 K/9, 0.9 BB/9

The Week Ahead

Indians: 2 @ Diamondbacks, 3 @ Mariners

Royals: 3 vs. Dodgers, 3 vs. Angels

Tigers: 3 @ Rangers, 3 @ Astros

Twins: 3 @ Angels, 3 @ Rangers

White Sox: 3 @ Orioles, 4 @ Blue Jays

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