A.L. Central Week in Review
The White Sox spent the week playing against the two other teams with any sort of realistic chance of winning the division. There’s obviously a lot of baseball left, but games against the Indians and (especially) Tigers have added importance, even in May. Unfortunately for the Pale Hose, both series got away from them in something of a lost week. The other major item for the White Sox was the announcement that Chris Sale will be returned to the bullpen, due to concerns over his ability to stay healthy as a starter. This is a major blow to the team, as Sale had pitched well so far, and had a much higher ceiling than whoever replaces him in the rotation.
Let’s take a look around the division and see what happened over the last seven days:
Chicago: The Sox started the week off with Cleveland in town. In Monday’s opener, Chris Sale pitched well and on the day I named Gordon Beckham the division’s worst player for April, he made clear he does not intend to repeat that dubious distinction, going 3 for 4 with his first HR of the year. Wednesday saw another imperfect start from Philip Humber and Thursday saw an even worse start from John Danks, as the White Sox lost both games to drop the series.
The weekend was spent in Detroit, and the team may have been happy to get back on the road after a rough homestand, during which they went just 2-5. On Friday, American League Pitcher of the Month Jake Peavy pitched well again and the Sox were up 4-3 going into the 9th, partially on the back of another Beckham HR. But Matt Thornton gave up a 2-run HR to Jhonny Peralta though, and the game was lost. Turnaround is fair play though, and on Saturday it was Adam Dunn hitting the 2-run 9th inning HR, sending the Sox to a 3-2 win. Sunday’s rubber-match started with a 1st inning Adam Dunn HR, but the Sox didn’t score another run all day, and lost the game and the series.
Record for the week: 2-4
Player of the week: Adam Dunn – .318/.385/.864 with 4 HR, 5 R, and 7 RBI. Those 4 HR led the American League while the 7 RBI led the division, his SLG was good for 3rd in the A.L.
Cleveland: The Indians were here in Chicago to start the week. On Tuesday the first five hitters in the lineup go a combined 0 for 20 as Cleveland lost. Wednesday saw the Indians debut of Johnny Damon, signed last week to (theoretically) boost a struggling offense. Damon didn’t do much in the game, and wound up exiting early with “general cramping,” but the Indians won. Jason Kipnis, a Northbrook native, led the charge on Thursday, hitting a 3B and a late HR that blasted the game open, giving Cleveland the series win.
The Indians returned home for a weekend series with the Rangers, who’d been arguably the best team in baseball. Shin-Soo Choo, who’s really been struggling, hit an early HR, his first of the year, and the Indians won the opener. Cleveland lost Saturday’s game in 11 innings, wasting a four-hit effort from Asdrubal Cabrera. Sunday saw Ubaldo Jimenez throw his best game of the season, going 7 shutout innings. Kipnis added another HR as the Indians won the game 4-2 to take the series.
Record for the week: 4-2
Player of the week: Jason Kipnis – .455/.538/.909 with 10 hits, 2 HR, 2SB, 6 R, 6 RBI. The 10 hits, 6 runs, and .455 average all led the division. His OBP, SLG, and OPS were all tops in the American League.
Detroit: The Tigers were home for the week, with the Royals coming to town for a weekday series. Monday’s game was postponed by rain, to be made up later in the year. Tuesday’s game was 9-0 Tigers by the end of the 4th, with nine different players scoring the runs. That was more than enough for Detroit starter Rick Porcello, who pitched eight strong innings. Justin Verlander pitched well Wednesday, but there was much less run support, and Detroit lost in the 9th, splitting the series.
The White Sox were next into town. On Friday, rookie Drew Smyly continued his great start to the season; he’s pitched five times now, without giving up more than two runs in any of them. The Tigers were behind in the 9th though, until Jhonny Peralta hit his first HR of the season to give Detroit a walk-off win. Jose Velverde, who didn’t blow a single lead in 2011, blew another one Saturday, wasting a great start from Max Scherzer. Sunday saw Porcello make his second good start of the week as Detroit took the series. Porcello has made almost 100 career starts, so it’s easy to forget he’s still just 23 years old. If he keeps rolling, Detroit is likely to be in good shape.
Record for the week: 3-2
Player of the week: Rick Porcello – 2 starts (both were Detroit wins), 14.1 IP, 2.51 ERA, 0.91 WHIP 4.00 K/BB ratio (meaning he struck-out four times as many batters as he walked, 4.00 is a strong number).
Kansas City: The Royals began the week in Detroit, where rain washed out Monday’s game. Tuesday saw them down big in a hurry, as Luke Hochevar last just 4 innings, giving up 9 runs on 12 hits, as his ERA for the season rose to 7.36. Jonathan Sanchez pitched 5 shutout innings Wednesday though and an infield hit by former White Sox won the game for Kansas City in the 9th. A split in Detroit must have felt like a series win for the struggling Royals.
The weekend brought the Yankees to Kansas City. Mike Moustakas drove in 3 runs early on Thursday and the Royals managed to hold on for a 4-3 win. Friday saw Kansas City shutdown by CC Sabathia, but the actual game was entirely overshadowed by a season-ending torn ACL (the same injury suffered by the Bulls’ Derrick Rose last weekend) for Mariano Rivera, which took place while he was shagging balls during batting practice. Sad news for baseball fans, even ones who hate the Yankees (like me). Felipe Paulino shut the Yankees out for 6 innings on Saturday, but Hochevar was even worse Sunday than he had been Monday, lasting just 2.1 innings and raising questions about how much longer he can remain in the rotation. The series ended a 2-2 split.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Alex Gordon – .375/.423/.500 with 9 hits, 3 2B, 6 runs, 5 RBI. Those 6 runs tied for the most in the division.
Minnesota: The Twins began their week in Anaheim, where they lost the opener 4-3. Scoring just 3 runs on 8 hits against C.J. Wilson is nothing to feel bad about; little did anyone know that was as it would get offensively. Tuesday, Minnesota was shutout by Jerome Williams, they managed just 3 hits. Francisco Liriano gave up 4 runs in just 5.1 innings, a performance which actually lowered his ERA. Thursday brought a no hitter from Jered Weaver. The Twins finished the series with just 3 runs on only 11 hits. Ugly.
The Twins had a day off to try and recover, maybe go to the Seattle Fish Market to try and forget what’d happened down the coast. On Friday, Minnesota managed just 5 hits, but they led to 3 runs and Seattle’s own anemic offense allowed that to be enough. Maybe the bats were warming up? Maybe not. On Saturday it was Felix Hernandez’s turn to dominate the Minnesota lineup. He threw 8 scoreless innings. The Twins had just 1 hit and were shutout for the 3rd time in four games. Oh my. 2 runs on 5 hits Sunday counted as something of an explosion for Minnesota, but were not enough to win the game. The Twins now limp home, but Jered Weaver will be on the mound to face them again tonight, so the suffering may not be over.
Record for the week: 1-5
Player of the week: Um… I don’t know, Carl Pavano maybe? He only gave up 2 runs in the 6 innings he pitched. That’s something. It sure as hell wasn’t anyone from the offense.
In Review: The Indians remain in 1st place, but Monday’s doubleheader against the White Sox and no off day during the week mean they’ll be playing 8 games this week though, which could lead to fatigue and a drop on the standings. Detroit is close behind, and while they’ll be on the road all week, their opponents are middling, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make up their small deficit to the Indians this week. The White Sox have to find more wins. They’re not getting blown out often, but they’ve now lost four consecutive series and find themselves a season-low 4 games under .500. The Royals have put their long losing streak behind them, and seem ready to play some respectable baseball. Still, the struggles of so many of their young players cannot be comforting to Kansas City fans. The Twins were historically bad last week (even though they won a game). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 9 hits they managed over the middle 4 games of their week marks the worst hitting output over four consecutive games of any team in modern baseball history. They totaled 8 runs and 22 hits over six games. On April 11th, the Colorado Rockies managed 22 hits in just one game, and they scored 17 runs along the way! The Twins have scored the second fewest runs in the American League so far, and given up the second most. Justin Morneau is back on the DL. The Twins are a mess.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, May 6th):
W – L GB RS RA DIFF
Cleveland 15 – 11 – 117 116 +1
Detroit 14 – 13 1.5 115 118 -3
Chicago 13 – 15 3 108 107 +1
Kansas City 9 – 18 6.5 104 133 -29
Minnesota 7 – 20 8.5 92 151 -59
The Week Ahead:
Chicago: 4 @ CLE, off Thursday, 3 vs. KC
Cleveland: 4 vs. CWS, 4 @ BOS
Detroit: 3 @ SEA, 4 @ OAK
Kansas City: 3 vs. BOS, off Thursday 3 @ CWS
Minnesota: 3 vs. LAA, 4 vs. TOR