Chris Sale in His 15-K Gem (Photo: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

A.L. Central Week in Review


 

The White Sox took control of 1st place in the division last week and are behind only the Texas Rangers for best record and best run differential in the American League. They’re 14-2 over the last two and a half weeks and have the look of a legit contender. It’s an exciting time to be a Sox fan, a third of the way into a season many prognosticators said would be mediocre at best on the South Side. Let’s take a look around the division in the A.L. Central Week in Review:

 

Chicago: The week began with a very good Tampa Bay team in town. The Rays had won 9 of their last 14 entering this series. Chris Sale wasn’t impressed though; he tore through the Tampa Bay lineup, striking out 15 (one shy of the franchise record) in 7.1 innings. It’s fair to say Sale has joined Jake Peavy as a Cy Young candidate right now. Philip Humber kept things running well on Tuesday, with 7 strong innings of his own. Dayan Viciedo led the offense with 3 hits, including his 11th home run. Viciedo added 3 more hits Wednesday as the Sox finished off the sweep.

Next came three games against the Mariners, with a Peavy vs. Felix Hernandez pitching match-up for Friday. The bats touched Hernandez up for 4 runs and chased him after just 5 innings, with home runs from Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn leading the charge. Matt Thornton allowed the Mariners to tie the game up late, but the Sox put up 3 in the 8th, running their winning streak to 9 games, their longest streak since 2010. It looked like a 10-game streak was in the cards, but the Sox lost a late lead Saturday and then lost the game in extra innings. On Sunday they were back to work, with Chris Sale pitching a complete game for the 4-2 win.

Record for the week: 5-1

Player of the week: Chris Sale – 2 starts, 16.1 innings, 23 strikeouts, 0.73 WHIP, all of which led the American League, a 1.65 ERA, which was 2nd in the A.L.

 

Cleveland: Cleveland’s lineup has struggled with recent injuries to Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carlos Santana. With home series against the Royals and Twins this week, the Indians seemed to have a chance to right the ship. Monday’s opener against the Royals went well, with Jason Kipnis collecting 3 hits and the recently called up Lonnie Chisenhall hitting a HR. Tuesday saw Justin Masterson get knocked around, it’s been a very up and down year for him. The same thing happened to Jeanmar Gomez on Wednesday and Cleveland dropped both games.

After a day off, the Twins came to town, and on Friday Derek Lowe gave Cleveland its first strong start in over a week. Chisenhall and Kipnis both homered, with Kipnis adding a stolen base. As in the Kansas City series though, things went south after the first game. Neither Josh Tomlin on Saturday, or Masterson on Sunday was terrible, but neither was very good either, and the offense couldn’t get much going either day. For the second year in a row, a strong first quarter of the season for Cleveland seems headed to a pretty weak rest of the year. Obviously that could change, but not without better health for the lineup and better performances from the rotation.

Record for the week: 2-4

Player of the week: Jason Kipnis – .320/.370/.440, an OPS of .810, 8 hits, 1 HR, 7 runs (led A.L.), 6 RBI, 5 SB (led A.L.)

 

Detroit: The Tigers began their week in Boston, with 4 games against the Red Sox. Doug Fister wasn’t sharp in the opener and was placed on the DL with a left side strain after the loss. Justin Verlander took the mound Tuesday, but got touched up for 5 runs on 10 hits in another Tigers loss. Wednesday brought another defeat, with Drew Smyly on the mound this time. Max Scherzer wasn’t really any better than those guys in his start, Thursday, but the offense finally did something about it, with 3 hits from Delmon Young, including a HR, keeping Detroit from being swept.

The Tigers returned home after that, but with the Yankees visiting, it wasn’t likely to be an easy weekend. On Friday, Casey Crosby made the first start of his career in place of the injured Fister. A grand slam by former Tiger Curtis Granderson blew the game open early, and the Tigers went down in another loss. Rick Porcello was solid on Saturday, and Miguel Cabrera hit two deep blasts to center field as the Tigers won, 4-3. Having Verlander on the mound for the finale seemed a good sign for Detroit, but for the second time last week, the reigning MVP didn’t have his best stuff, and for the first time since 2008, he’s lost 3 straight starts.

Record for the week: 2-5

Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera – .355/.375/.742, an OPS of 1.117, 11 hits (2nd in A.L.), 6 doubles (led A.L.), 2 HR, 6 runs, 4 RBI, 1 SB

 

Kansas City: The Royals were in Cleveland to start the week. On Monday, starter Nate Adcock couldn’t survive the 3rd inning and Kansas City lost, but on Tuesday Will Smith pitched well (feel free to make your own joke, a “Men in Black 3” reference would be timely) and the offense scored 8 runs, with Mike Moustakas hitting his 8th HR of the season to lead the way. The offense was good for 13 hits on Wednesday, including doubles by Johnny Giavotella, Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Jeff Francoeur, and the Royals won the series.

The Royals were home next to face former Kansas City tenants, the Athletics. Felipe Paulino continued his fine season with 6 shutout innings in the opener and the bullpen followed with 3 no-hit innings to preserve a 2-0 win. Luke Hochevar continued his not-so-fine season on Saturday, giving up 6 innings and getting pulled in the 5th inning, as the Royals dropped a 9-3 game. Vin Mazzaro pitched more like Paulino in the finale and the Royals won 2-0 again. Only 6 runs in the series, but good enough for 2 wins. An Eric Hosmer home run in the 2ndprovided the winning run, it was Hosmer’s second HR of the week. After his huge rookie campaign, he’s stumbled in 2012, but perhaps he’s getting things turned around.

Record for the week: 4-2

Player of the week: Mike Moustakas – .375/.545 (led A.L.)/.625, an OPS of 1.170, 6 hits, 6 walks (2nd in A.L.), 1 HR, 6 RBI

 

Minnesota: The A’s were in town to start the week; the Twins were not the kindest of hosts. In Monday’s opener, Scott Diamond worked around 9 hits and limited Oakland to 3 runs in 6.1 innings, and the offense did just enough to pull out a win. On Tuesday the Twins were behind with two outs in the 9th, but Josh Willingham hit a walk off HR to win the game. On Wednesday, Willingham homered again, and Francisco Liriano, who was so bad earlier this season he was temporarily moved to the bullpen, finally pitched well, striking out 9 in shutout innings as the Twins swept the series.

The Twins were in Cleveland for the weekend. Carl Pavano had his shortest outing of the year Friday, giving way in the 4th inning, and the offense managed just 1 run. P.J. Walters wasn’t much better on Saturday, but the bullpen put together 4.2 shutout innings (with just 1 hit) and the offense bounced back for 7 runs on 12 hits, including 3 from Joe Mauer (a HR among them). Diamond pitched 7 good innings on Sunday, and Willingham had 2 doubles (giving him 17 on the year). The Twins now have a winning record over the last three weeks.

Record for the week: 5-1

Player of the week: Josh Willingham – .348/.423/.739, an OPS of 1.162, 8 hits, 2 HR, 5 runs, 8 RBI (led A.L.)

 

 

A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, June 3rd):

W-L

GB

RS

RA

DIFF

Chicago

31-23

-

260

220

+40

Cleveland

28-25

2.5

233

257

-24

Detroit

25-29

6

233

247

-14

Kansas City

23-29

7

207

228

-21

Minnesota

20-33

10.5

210

284

-74

 

The Week Ahead:

Chicago

off Monday

3 vs. TOR

3 vs. HOU

Cleveland

off Monday

3 @ DET

3 @ STL

Detroit

off Monday

3 vs. CLE

3 @ CIN

Kansas City

3 vs. MIN

off Thursday

3 @ PIT

Minnesota

3 @ KC

off Thursday

3 vs. CHC

 

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