AL Central standings (through Sunday, June 29):
The Tigers are playing well again and seem on the verge of putting some real distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.
Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week:
Detroit Tigers (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers spent the week in Texas, starting things off with three games in Arlington. Ian Kinsler homered in his first at bat as a visitor back in Arlington (where he spent 8 years with the Rangers) and a strong outing by Drew Smyly took care of the rest as Detroit cruised to an 8-2 win. Victor and J.D. Martinez each homered Wednesday, powering the Tigers to an 8-6 win, and Detroit finished off the sweep the next night, as Rick Porcello tossed a complete game shutout, the first of his career, allowing just 3 hits along the way.
Next Detroit rolled over to Houston. Justin Verlander struck out 8 in 6 innings in the opener, allowing 3 runs. The game went to extras, and the Tigers fell in the 11th, when the recently promoted Blaine Hardy allowed a run. Detroit bounced back for a 4-3 win on Saturday, as Max Scherzer struck out 13 in 7 innings and Kinsler hit a 3-run homer. Alex Avila homered on Sunday, and Nick Castellanos continued his strong week with two hits, including a triple, but Smyly didn't survive the 3rd inning and Detroit fell 6-4.
Random Stat of the Week: The Tigers are batting .276 as a team, with a .441 slugging percentage. Both of those figures lead the American League.
Kansas City Royals (3-3)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals hosted the Dodgers to begin their week. They did well against their former ace Zack Greinke in the opener, scoring 5 runs off him, with a homer by Salvador Perez leading the charge. Tuesday was a different story, as Clayton Kershaw shut KC down all night, wasting a solid pitching performance from Danny Duffy. James Shields gave up 4 runs in 7 innings, continuing his mediocre season. Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson each homered for the Royals, but it wasn't enough, and they fell 5-4.
Next into town were the Angels. A grand slam by Omar Infante capped a 7-run 3rd inning for Kansas City, and the bullpen delivered 5 shutout innings after starter Jason Vargas was roughed up, helping the Royals to an 8-6 win. The bats were quieted on Saturday, and KC lost 6-2. A four-hour rain delay interrupted the game, ending Yordano Ventura's day after only 4 innings. Cain had 4 hits in Sunday's finale, but the game was still tied at 4 heading into the 9th inning, but Infante drove in Alex Gordon for the game (and series) winner.
Random Stat of the Week: The Royals have picked up their power output a bit, but still have only 46 home runs as a team, fewest in MLB. They are on pace for 92, which would make them the first American League team since the 1994 Brewers to fall short of 100 (that season was, of course, cut short by a labor stoppage).
Cleveland Indians (2-3)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians had only 5 games last week, beginning with two in Arizona. The first one was wild, and including a weak start by Justin Masterson, a game-tying single by Yan Gomes in the 9th, a go-ahead home run by Carlos Santana in the 11th (one of his four hits on the night), a blown save that same inning by Bryan Shaw, and the Tribe taking the loss in the 14th. On Wednesday Corey Kluber helped Cleveland get a 6-1 win by throwing 7 shutout innings, while Michael Bourn had 3 hits, including a pair of triples.
The weekend brought a trip to Seattle, where the Indians dropped the opener 3-2. Bourn added another 3 hits in that one, and Jason Kipnis had 2 doubles, but the rest of the lineup did just about nothing in the defeat. Gomes homered Saturday night, but the big story was Josh Tomlin, who pitched the American League's best game of the season, a 1-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 0 walks. In Sunday's rubber match the tables were turned, and the Indians were the team with only one hit (a single by Lonnie Chisenhall), as they couldn't solve Felix Hernandez (baseball's best pitcher this year) and lost 3-0.
Random Stat of the Week: The Indians have improved their defense a little in recent weeks, but still lead all MLB teams with 70 errors. That puts them on pace for 140, which would be the most by any team this decade.
Chicago White Sox (4-3)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox were in Baltimore during the week, and took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th on Monday, but Ronald Belisario gave up a walk-off home run to Chris Davis, hanging Chicago with a loss. They bounced back for a 4-2 win the next night, getting 7 strong innings from Jose Quintana and Gordon Beckham's 7th home run of the season. Adam Eaton had 4 hits in Wednesday's rubber match, and Jose Abreu homered, but the bullpen failed again, as a grand slam by Nelson Cruz tied the game, and the Sox lost in the 12th on a wild pitch by Daniel Webb.
Next came four games in Toronto. The Pale Hose managed only 4 hits in the opener (including 2 by Moises Sierra), and lost 7-0. Friday night Abreu homered twice (the fourth time he's done that this year), and Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez each added a long ball in a 5-4 victory. Chris Sale worked around 5 walks in 7 innings on Saturday, giving up just 2 runs, and Chicago won 4-3, with another homer by Viciedo leading the offense. Sierra homered off former White Sox Mark Buehrle in Sunday's series finale, and Quintana tossed 7 shutout frames for the Sox, who won 4-0 to take the series.
Random Stat of the Week: White Sox pitchers are walking 3.79 batters per 9 innings, which is the most by an MLB team this season, and the second most by any MLB team this decade.
Minnesota Twins (1-5)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins were on the road this week, beginning in Anaheim. Josh Willingham and Kendrs Morales each homered Tuesday, but Kyle Gibson allowed 7 runs in 2 innings and Minnesota fell 8-6. Joe Mauer (having a very down season) had 2 hits Wednesday, but rookie Yohan Pino struggled on the mound and the Twins lost again. Ricky Nolasco's poor season continued in the series finale, as he allowed 6 runs on 11 hits, and a bases-clearing double by Mauer in the 9th was only enough to cut the final margin of defeat to 6-4.
The next stop on the trip was Arlington, Texas. Kevin Correia continued the streak of bad starts by Twins pitchers and the losing streak continued too. That streak was extended to five games on Saturday, as four singles and a walk represented Minnesota's only baserunners of the afternoon, as Yu Darvish was dominant for the Rangers. Gibson finally got Minnesota its first good pitching performance of the week on Sunday, giving up only 2 runs in 8 innings, and a double by Morales in the 9th inning drove in Sam Fuld with that proved to be the game-winning run.
Random Stat of the Week: Twins pitchers gave allowed only 0.82 home runs per 9 innings, which is the fewest in the American League this season, and the second fewest by an AL team in the last twenty years.
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 60-day 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
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 mid July; Ian Krol is on the 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation, he could return on Sunday; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation, and underwent surgery on Friday, he could return in late August
Twins: Eduardo Nunez is on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain, he is expected to return this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he could return in August; Trevor Plouffe (3B) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he is expected to return this week; Danny Santana (SS) was placed on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise in his left knee, a possible return date is TBD
White Sox: Nate Jones (RP) is on the 60-day DL recovering from back surgery, he could be back after the All-Star break; Matt Lindstrom is on the 15-day DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return in August; Felipe Paulino (SP) is on the 15-day 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)
5) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .311/.364/.533, 144 wRC+ in 335 PA, 28 2B, 13 HR, 64 RBI
4) Jose Abreu (CWS) - .279/.328/.625, 154 wRC+ in 296 PA, 17 2B, 25 HR, 64 RBI
3) Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) - .350/.404/.562, 174 wRC+ in 244 PA, 20 2B, 8 HR, 36 RBI
2) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .318/.386/.510, 155 wRC+ in 332 PA, 12 HR, 9 SB, 53 RBI
1) Victor Martinez (DET) - .323/.384/.589, 160 wRC+ in 333 PA, 96 H, 20 HR, 52 RBI
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 @ Dodgers, 3 vs. Royals
Royals: 3 @ Twins, 3 @ Indians
Tigers: 3 vs. A's, 4 vs. Rays
Twins: 3 vs. Royals, 4 vs. Yankees
White Sox: 3 vs. Angels, 3 vs. Mariners