Baseball is always much more fun to write about when there’s a close race for first place going on. Granted, it’s not even May so the current division standings don’t mean much, but as someone who is expecting their team to slip in their rankings by September, I’m enjoying my team’s first place standing while I can.
That being said, the AL Central has had an interesting week as three teams have been pushing and shoving atop the podium for first place.
Here’s how each team faired this past week:
Chicago White Sox: Chicago has emerged as one of the contenders for first place, despite a four-game losing streak. Currently, they hold a 10-10 record as they swept the Seattle Mariners last weekend in a series that was highlighted by a perfect game thrown by Philip Humber.
Humber made history on Saturday, April 21 as he went the distance to mow through the Mariners’ line-up, striking out nine to pick up his first win of the season.
Humber’s next start wasn’t so pretty. On Thursday, he was battered by the Boston Red Sox for nine runs, three of which were longballs.
Chicago dropped two of three to the Athletics earlier in the week as their only win came in the form of a Jake Peavy shutout. Peavy is now 3-0 with an opponent average of .172. Providing the offense for Peavy’s win was Paul Konerko, who homered for one of the team’s four runs. Konerko is now hitting .372 on the season with five home runs and an OPS of 1.084. And of course, I scoffed at him back during my fantasy draft. Lesson learned.
Now, the White Sox are taking on water as they’ve dropped two straight 3-10 losses to Boston. Kevin Youkilis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia owned Humber on Thursday and John Danks fell victim to the Boston bats on Friday. Chicago will complete their four-game series with the Red Sox on Sunday before hosting the Indians, who presently sit atop the AL Central.
Cleveland Indians: Speaking of the Indians, here’s how their week went.
After a successful west coast road trip, the team returned home to host the Kansas City Royals, who surprised the Tribe by snagging two of three games. Cleveland managed to inflict revenge on Shin-Soo Choo’s best friend, Jonathan Sanchez, by earning a win thanks to a go-ahead double from Jack Hannahan. However, the Royals bounced back to take the next two games as Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through six innings on Wednesday and Tomlin toppled over on Thursday. Tomlin’s outing was ugly as he went just 4.2 innings and relinquished eight hits, four runs and a walk.
Friday was the highlight of the Tribe’s week as the team begged for ace Justin Masterson to rebound from his recent struggles, though Jared Weaver took the hill for the LA Angels. Masterson was shaky early on, but settled in to go eight strong on the bump, giving up just four hits and two runs.
Despite Masterson’s solid start, Vinnie Pestano was the true hero of the evening as he entered the game in the eighth with two on and one out and struck out both batters faced. Pestano’s relief effort set the stage for the Tribe offense in the ninth.
Aaron Cunningham (yes, you read that name right) led off with a double and moved to third as Jason Kipnis, who seems to be breaking free from his recent slump, singled. That was all the team needed as Asdrubal Cabrera sent the Angels packing with a walk-off single to right.
Hopefully, Friday night was the boost the Tribe needed to sail through the remainder of the series. On Monday, the team will head out to Chicago for a short three-game series before returning home to host the dreaded Texas Rangers.
Detroit Tigers: Detroit didn’t have such a great week as they dropped five straight games. They lost three of four against the Rangers before getting swept by the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners slaughtered the Detroit arms for two-straight 15-hit games and on Tuesday, King Felix shut the Tigers down to just one run as his Mariners posted nine.
While Prince Fielder is still hitting .320, he’s hit just two home runs. Miguel Cabrera has hit six long balls and leads the team with 16 RBIs and has drawn 10 walks. Jhonny Peralta, on the other hand, has returned to his former Cleveland self as he’s hitting just .235 with a team-leading 17 strikeouts.
Even Justin Verlander couldn’t save his team from sinking on Friday as he received a no-decision in a team loss to the Yankees. Verlander wasn’t awful (is he ever?), but he went just six innings, surrendering seven hits and four runs.
Now, the Tigers will look to bounce back and steal a win from the Yankees. Detroit presently posts a .500 record at 10-10, keeping them tied in second place with Chicago.
Detroit will also have to move on without the help of Delmon Young, who was arrested in the Big Apple on Friday. Young reportedly assaulted a man and was charged with aggravated assault that could be increased to a hate crime as Young allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks to a panhandler on the street. Reports also suggest that alcohol was involved in the incident.
In other words, Delmon Young is working again to kill his career. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals had a better week as they managed to take two of three from the Tribe and their first of three from the Twins. Of course, this all comes after a 12-game losing streak.
The Royals snapped their losing skid in Cleveland as Luke Hochevar topped Ubaldo Jimenez. The Royals managed to rack up eight runs on 11 hits on Wednesday and their offensive turnaround carried over to Thursday as they scored four on 10 hits to give Luis Mendoza his first win.
It seems the Royals may be on to something as they also won on Friday in a 7-6 battle over the Minnesota Twins. Friday’s victory lifted the Royals from the basement of the AL Central as the Twins now look up at the rest with the MLB’s worst record of 5-15.
Minnesota Twins: I think that last sentence pretty much sums things up for the Twins. They’ve now dropped six-straight, meaning they probably had the worst week of all the AL Central teams.
Pitching is definitely a problem in Twins territory. Francisco Liriano is presently 0-3 with an 11.02 ERA while Carl Pavano leads the starters with an ERA that is barely under 5.00. Overall, the Twins are second-to-last in the majors in team ERA at 5.77, just above the Boston Red Sox at 5.86. The Twins’ pitchers are also second in the league in home runs allowed. They’ve surrendered 31 long balls, just below Toronto, who has allowed 32. Finally, the Twins pitchers are lowest in the league in recorded strikeouts. For some perspective, Minnesota pitchers have fanned 103 hitters; compare that to the league-leading Washington Nationals, who have fanned 174.
To say the Twins have had a bad week is a mighty understatement, considering they’ve had a bad season altogether. However, they’ve got the Angels and the Mariners next week, meaning they’ve got an optimal opportunity to turn things around.