Paul Konerko is greeted by teammates after hitting a two run home run against the Rangers (photo: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE)

A.L. Central Week in Review


 

The White Sox entered last week reeling, having lost five straight, including a sweep in Detroit that allowed the Tigers to move into 1st place. If the Sox couldn’t find their footing again quickly, they risked falling into a deeper hole that would be hard to climb out of. Let’s take a look at the A.L. Central Week in Review:

 

Chicago: The Sox came home from their long and frustrating road trip for three games with the Twins. In the series opener, early home runs from Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios staked the team to a lead they would not relinquish; Gavin Floyd was shaky but got the job done in a 7-4 win. The offense stepped it up even further Tuesday; Konerko and Dunn each homered again, as did Alexei Ramirez. Dunn drove in 4 runs altogether and Konerko had 4 hits on the night. The victory moved the Sox back into a tie for first. Jake Peavy took the mound Wednesday; he was strong and the Pale Hose finished the sweep.

It was back on the road after that, this time down to Texas to face the 1st place Rangers. Chris Sale struggled early, giving up 4 runs in the 1st inning before settling in. The offense chipped away at the deficit though and the Sox were able to win 9-5, ending the night alone atop the division again. Philip Humber, who’d lasted just 3 innings in his previous start, was sharp over 6 innings Saturday and Konerko and Dunn each hit their third home run of the week to lead the charge as the Sox extended their winning streak to five games. Late that night, word came out that the Sox had traded for Francisco Liriano, bolstering their rotation (aside from his poor start against the Sox Monday, he’s been solid of late). Sunday presented the opportunity for a second sweep on the week, but the bats went cold and the Sox lost 2-0. Still, 2 out of 3 in Arlington is a successful weekend.

Record for the week: 5-1

Player of the week: Paul Konerko – .435/.440/.870, a 1.310 OPS, 10 hits, 3 HR, 4 runs, 7 RBI

 

Cleveland: The Indians hosted Detroit last week and in the opener they got 6 very surprising shutout innings from Ubaldo Jimenez and scored the winning run on a suicide squeeze bunt by Aaron Cunningham. Derek Lowe was less effective in his start Wednesday, giving up 5 runs over 6 innings in a 5-3 loss. The Cleveland bats were quiet for most of the series finale, but the 7th innings began with home runs from Carlos Santana (his 8th) and Travis Hafner (his 10th). A few hits later the Indians had taken a 2-run lead; Chris Perez eventually came in and picked up his 29th save of the season as the Indians took the series.

The Indians headed to the Twin Cities next. Friday’s contest was a disaster for Cleveland. Josh Tomlin gave up 8 runs in 4 innings and the lineup managed just 3 singles in an 11-0 laugher. Justin Masterson fared no better on Saturday, giving up 10 runs over 5.2 innings. Carlos Santana hit his second home run of the week and drove in 4, but it was another lopsided Indians defeat. Sunday brought another loss, dropping the Indians two games below .500. Cleveland is 5.5 games out, which is not insurmountable, but they’ve been outscored by 66 runs this year, and simply aren’t good enough to be considered contenders any longer in my view.

Record for the week: 2-4

Player of the week: Carlos Santana – .238/.273/.600, an .896 OPS, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI

 

Detroit: The Tigers rolled into Cleveland with a lot of momentum, but momentum in baseball can be a funny thing. In Tuesday’s opener, Detroit somehow couldn’t score a run off Ubaldo Jimenez, who’s been a mess for the Indians this season. Miguel Cabrera put up a late home run, but it wasn’t enough. The Tigers bounced back on the strength of 7 good innings from Max Scherzer and 3 hits from Quintin Berry to knot the series and had Justin Verlander going in the rubber match. He cruised for 6 innings, but gave up back-to-back home runs to start the 7th and the Tigers dropped the game and series, dropping them back into 2nd place.

The Tigers crossed into Canada for the weekend and were promptly kicked in the pants by Toronto 8-3. Rick Porcello wasn’t on his game and home runs from Cabrera and Prince Fielder weren’t close to enough. Saturday brought more of the same, a 5-1 loss this time as the Tigers could muster only 5 hits all game. Sunday’s finale saw Doug Fister take the hill for Detroit, and he gave them just what they needed, going 8 innings while striking out 9 and allowing just 1 run. Jhonny Peralta had 2 home runs to provide all of the Tigers’ scoring in a 4-1 win.

Record for the week: 2-4

Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera – .227/.320/.545, an .865 OPS, 2 HR, 4 RBI

 

Kansas City: The Royals were on the road last week, with 3 games against the Angels up first. After a 6-3 loss in the series opener, Kansas City got a strong effort from Will Smith on Tuesday; he lasted 7 innings against the Angels strong lineup while giving up just 1 run. A Lorenzo Cain home run and 3 hits from Alex Gordon led the offense. Luke Hochevar got shelled for 8 runs in just 3 innings in Wednesday’s rubber match though and while Billy Butler (his 20th) and Jeff Francoeur (his 9th) both went long, it was an ugly 11-6 loss for the Royals, who’ve been really struggling since the All-Star break.

K.C. headed north to Seattle for four games with the last place Mariners next, but might as well have just flown home instead. On Thursday the Royals got just 2 hits and on Friday they collected only 4. Those losses dropped them into a tie for last place in the division. Saturday brought an explosion of offense as Kansas City scored 3 whole runs. Unfortunately, they gave up 4, just enough to send them to their 4th straight loss. On Sunday they were swept out of town, the not-so-proud owners of the worst record in the American League.

Record for the week: 1-6

Player of the week: Billy Butler – .458/.552/.708, a 1.260 OPS, 11 hits, 3 2B, 4 runs, 6 RBI

 

Minnesota: The Twins were on the south side to begin their week and on Monday Francisco Liriano (in what proved to be his last start as a Twin) was chased early; he was charged with 7 runs in just 2.2 innings and Minnesota dropped the opener. Things were bad in a different way on Tuesday. Josh Willingham hit his 24th and 25th home runs of the season and the Twins took a 4-2 lead into the 7th inning, but four relievers combined to allow 9 more runs to score and Minnesota lost again. The Twins were swept away Wednesday after Nick Blackburn allowed 8 runs over 4.1 innings and the offense collected only 6 hits.

The Twins returned home to host the Indians next, and Friday night they took out their frustrations on Cleveland to the tune of 11-0. Starter Scott Diamond threw a Maddux and the offense ran wild; Justin Morneau and Willingham each homered and Joe Mauer added 3 hits in the romp. Willingham’s 4th home run of the week started the scoring up again on Saturday, Minnesota put up 12 runs in another win, one which moved the Twins out of the A.L. Central cellar. A 2-run home run by Morneau provided all the scoring Minnesota needed on Sunday, though they added a few more runs for good measure and won 5-1 for the sweep.

Record for the week: 3-3

Player of the week: Justin Morneau – .421/.476/.842, a 1.318 OPS, 8 hits, 2 HR, 3 runs, 6 RBI

 

The short of it: The White Sox bounced back in a big way and have reclaimed the division lead. Detroit is still very close, and it seems likely the A.L. Central crown will remain up in the air at least until the final series between the two teams in mid-September. The Indians have been fading for weeks, and with a losing record and poor run differential, they’re unlikely to make much more noise in the standings. The Twins have outscored their opponents since the All-Star break and moved out of last place, while the Royals have the worst record in the American League since the break and now occupy the basement.

 

A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, July 29th):

W-L

GB

RS

RA

DIFF

Chicago

55-46

-

480

420

+60

Detroit

54-48

1.5

459

445

+14

Cleveland

50-52

5.5

436

502

-66

Minnesota

43-58

12

443

527

-84

Kansas City

41-60

14

415

481

-66

 

The Week Ahead:

Chicago

 3 @ MIN off Thursday 3 vs. LAA

Cleveland

off Monday

3 @ KC

3 @ DET

Detroit

 3 @ BOS off Thursday 3 vs. CLE

Kansas City

off Monday

3 vs. CLE

3 vs. TEX

Minnesota

3 vs. CHW

4 @ BOS

 

 

 

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