A.L. Central Week in Review
The White Sox didn’t have a very good week, losing each of their two series. Fortunately for them, none of their division-mates had a very successful week either. So far, it’s fair to call the A.L. Central the worst division in baseball. That’s not a bad thing for the White Sox though, as someone from the group is still assured a playoff spot, and the preseason expectation of most was that Detroit would waltz away with the division crown. Let’s take a quick look at team:
Chicago: The White Sox were coming off a weekend sweep of the Mariners, and started the week off in Oakland. Monday brought a complete game shutout from Jake Peavy. It was his 3rd as a member of the White Sox, which matches his total as a Padre. I would have thought he’d thrown more of them during his stretch of strong seasons there, in such a great pitchers’ park. Tuesday it was the Sox turn to be held scoreless, wasting a strong start from Gavin Floyd. Chris Sale continued the run of good pitching, and Paul Konerko hit his 400th career game on Wednesday, sending the game into extra innings. Hector Santiago couldn’t hold onto a 14th inning lead though, and the Sox lost the rubber match.
The Sox came home to start a 4-game series with Boston. Humber got roughed up in his first start since perfection (as have most other perfect game pitchers). The Red Sox bats stayed awfully hot on Friday, putting up 10 runs for the second game in a row. Peavy was great on Saturday, again going the distance, but the offense couldn’t do anything to help him. Konerko crushed the ball all week (he had 10 hits on the week, including 3 2B and 3 HR, and an OPS of 1.457), but no one else felt like joining him. The Sox brought a 5-game losing streak into Sunday’s finale, but Gavin Floyd was on point, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning as the losing streak ended.
Record for the week: 2-5
Player of the week: Jake Peavy – His two complete games during the week match his total for the White Sox over 41 previous starts. He gave up just 1 run on 7 hits over 18 innings.
Cleveland: The Indians had good reason to lick their chops as the week began, with Kansas City coming to town riding an 11-game losing streak. But wouldn’t you know it, after a narrow win in the first game, Cleveland couldn’t get anything going, and wound up losing two of the three games. They scored just 8 total runs in the series, a week and a half after putting up 32 on the scoreboard against these very same Royals. Further proof that you can never figure out baseball!
The weekend brought Los Angeles to town, a team that has really been struggling so far. Huge off-season acquisition Albert Pujols arrived in Cleveland without a single home run yet, through 19 games as an Angel. Pujols had plenty of company, as NO ONE on the Indians had hit a home run for 8 straight games, the longest such streak for the franchise since 1991. Cleveland came back in the opener, to win 3-2. Saturday was another pitchers’ duel, with Dan Haren and the Angels getting the best of it this time. Sunday’s rubber match: More pitching. Most of it came from Derek Lowe, who pitched 7.2 shutout innings as the Tribe took the series. No home runs all weekend for the Indians, pushing their streak to 11 games, the longest since 1981. None for Pujols either. Going back to the end of the 2011 regular season, he’s gone 115 AB without one, the longest dry spell of his storied career.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Derek Lowe – Lowe pitched well in each of his 2 starts, pitching 13.2 innings, with an ERA of 0.66 and a WHIP of 1.02.
Detroit: The Tigers began the week in 1st place, and looked to continue their success agiainst Seattle for 3 games. The Mariners’ offense has been the worst in all of baseball in each of the last two seasons, but they put 15 hits up on Tuesday, with Detroit’s Max Scherzer pitching poorly, and 15 hits again on Wednesday, when Felix Hernandez mowed the Tigers down. Detroit lost again on Thursday, swept by a team expected to lose 90 games or more this season.
The Tigers tried to put that behind them as they headed to New York for a weekend series with the Yankees. Justin Verlander would be on the hill for the opener, so Detroit had to feel good. The reigning A.L. MVP didn’t have it though, as the Tigers dropped their 5th straight. Detroit rookie Drew Smyly picked up his first career win on Saturday, after limiting the Yankees to just 1 run over six innings. Tigers closer Jose Valverde has not been very good so far this season, and made it interesting in the 9th, but Detroit held on. Sunday, Max Scherzer was ineffective again and the Tigers lost another one. Detroit also cut ties with Brandon Inge during the week, he’d been a Tiger since 2001, playing over 1400 games with them.
Record for the week: 1-5
Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera – A slash line of .318/.400/.773 for the week, with 3 HR and 8 RBI.
Kansas City: The Royals end last week on a 10-game losing streak. Monday saw the Blue Jays extend that to 11. The team may have been happy to get away from Kansas City for a while, where things had been such a mess. The road trip started the same way the home stand had gone, with another loss, but the Royals bounced back to take the last two in Cleveland and win the series. Perhaps Kansas City should start wearing their road grays all of the time.
The trip continued in Minnesota, for three games with the Twins. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler each homered in the opener, and suddenly the Royals had a 3-game winning streak going! What could possibly stop them? Well, rain, for one thing. Saturday’s game will have to wait ‘til another trip up north, this series would go just two games. Sunday saw the Royals fall behind 4-0 in the 1st inning, and they never caught up, splitting the shortened series and their week.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Billy Butler – Butler had 10 hits, including 3 HR, with an OPS of 1.097 for the week.
Minnesota: The Twins had Boston come to town to start the week. The series turned into something of a hit parade for the Red Sox, as they scored 24 runs on 40 hits. Starters Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn, Liam Hendriks each looked really bad for Minnesota. The Twins did put up some offense against a group of pretty good pitchers (Jon Lester, especially), and two of the losses were by only one run, but it was still a very ugly sweep.
Kansas City came in for the weekend series, and began it by extending the Twins losing streak to six games. The loss also dropped Minnesota behind the Royals for the worst record in baseball. I imagine many of Twins were happy to see some rain fall over the stadium and postpone Saturday’s game. If nothing else, a heavily taxed bullpen could use the rest. Marquis was on the mound for Sunday’s game, and while he wasn’t great, he didn’t get shelled either. Josh Willingham, who’s been killing the ball this month, led the Twins to their first win of the week.
Record for the week: 1-4
Player of the week: Joe Mauer – Mauer had 8 hits, with a slash line of .421/.522/.579.
In Review: he Indians will end April in 1st place for the second year in a row. Of course, last season shows just how little that can mean. Their offense is going to have to get better in a hurry, or they’ll wind up buried. The Tigers still seem likely to turn things on sooner or later and pull ahead of the A.L. Central field, but their defense has been (predictably) bad and the offense, expected to be so powerful, has been only so-so. The White Sox are going to need to get more production from the bottom of their line-up, they’ve got an entire inning’s worth of nearly automatic outs right now, but if their starting rotation can keep this up, they’re going to be in a lot of games. Peavy especially, has been a huge boost so far. The Royals and Twins have probably been the two worst teams in baseball. It’s very difficult to picture either of them competing this season.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, April 29th):
W – L GB RS RA DIFF
Cleveland 11 – 9 – 90 91 -1
Chicago 11 – 11 1 85 82 +3
Detroit 11 – 11 1 94 104 -10
Minnesota 6 – 15 5.5 84 120 -36
Kansas City 6 – 15 5.5 83 102 -19
The Week Ahead:
Chicago: off Monday, 3 vs. CLE, 3 @ DET
Cleveland: off Monday, 3 @ CWS, 3 vs. TEX
Detroit: 3 vs. KC, off Thursday, 3 vs. CWS
Kansas City: 3 @ DET, 4 @ NYY
Minnesota: 3 @ LAA, off Thursday, 3 @ SEA