The White Sox had their most successful week of the season (thanks, Cubs!) and begin this week at .500 for the first time since the start of May 3rd. They have the best run differential in the division (which historically is a better predictor of how a team will do going forward than their actual record) and in a move that is sure to tell thousands and thousands of tickets and bring the most excitement U.S. Cellular has seen since the 2005 World Series, the Sox signed Orlando Hudson! That’s right, Orlando Hudson. Game. Set. Match. The White Sox weren’t the only team in the division to have a good week, so let’s take a look at the American League Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The week brought two 2-game series for each team before a 3-day Interleague set over the weekend. The Sox hosted the Tigers to begin their week. In Monday’s contest, the Sox fell behind in the 1st and again in the 3rd, as John Danks was not sharp, but the team coming back. Dayan Viciedo, who entered the game batting below .200, had a couple hits, including a HR, and drove in 4 runs. Adam Dunn hit his 12th HR of the season, surpassing his mark for the entire 2011 season in just the 36th game of the year. Addison Reed locked things down in the 9th to seal the victory. On Tuesday, Jake Peavy was cruising through 5 innings, but everything fell apart in the 6th. Konerko had 3 hits, including his 7th HR, but it wasn’t enough; the Sox lost 10-8.
The team had to fly to Anaheim for two games with the Angels. Gavin Floyd had a rough go of things Wednesday, lasting 6 innings, but giving up 7 runs on 10 hits in the process. He even gave up a HR to Albert Pujols, which has been hard to do this season. The Sox bounced back on Thursday, getting good work from Chris Sale, another HR from Viciedo, 3 walks from leadoff man Alejandro De Aza, and split of the short series.
The weekend brought the first installment of the 2012 Crosstown Classic. The White Sox have won the season series with their cross town rivals three years in a row, and looked to continue that success. Philip Humber kept the Sox in the game and a 7th inning home run from Gordon Beckham stood up as the difference in a 3-2 win. The win was somewhat overshadowed by Paul Konerko’s early exit after being hit in the face with an errant pitch and also by the final appearance of Kerry Wood, who retired at the end of the game. Konerko is expected back fairly soon, which is obviously great news. His absence for an extended period of time would be a big blow to the team. Viciedo, A.J. Pierzynski, and Dunn all homered on Saturday, and while Zach Stewart tried to make things interesting by giving up four 9th inning runs, it was an easy win for the Sox. Beckham, Dunn, and Tyler Flowers all homered Sunday, Peavy struck out 7, and the Sox completed the sweep with a 6-0 win. So long as Paulie is okay and return soon, it was a pretty darn successful weekend.
Record for the week: 5-2
Player of the week: Dayan Viciedo – .444/.444/.889, the AVG was 3rd in the A.L., the SLG was 2nd, his 1.333 OPS led the league, scored 5 runs, tied for league lead with 10 RBI and 4 HR
Cleveland: The Indians first 2-game series was in the Twin Cities (well, I guess it wasn’t in both of them). Jeanmar Gomez pitched 7 strong innings Monday, but the bullpen let the Twins tie things up in the 8th. A Shin-Soo Choo single in the 9th put Cleveland back ahead and Chris Perez made quick work of the bottom half of the inning. Choo then hit one of 3 Cleveland home runs on Tuesday (Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana had the others), which was more than enough offense for Derek Lowe, who pitched a shutout for the win. Lowe didn’t record a single strikeout, making him the first pitcher to throw a shutout without one since Scott Erickson in 2002.
The Indians returned home for two with the Mariners next. Felix Hernandez was on the mound for Seattle Wednesday, but the Indians didn’t notice and put up 8 runs in the first 4 innings. Choo had 3 hits, Travis Hafner hit his 5th HR, and Ubaldo Jimenez pitched plenty well enough to make that stand up. On Thursday Cleveland came back from a 4-0 deficit, sent the game to extras, fell behind in the 11th, then used 3 walks and a pair of singles to win it.
The weekend brought Miami to town. In Friday’s opener, Justin Masterson pitched 7 strong innings, but the bats never got much going and Cleveland lost 3-2. Gomez pitched his second good game of the week and while the Indians scored just 2 runs again, this time it was enough. Chris Perez struck out the side on just 10 pitches, then said some stuff that may not play very well in Cleveland. Sunday’s series finale never really got going in the Indians direction as they lost the game and the series, dropping them to 4-8 against the Marlins since their loss in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
Record for the week: 5-2
Player of the week: Jeanmar Gomez – 2 starts, 13.1 innings, league leading 0.00 ERA and league leading 0.83 WHIP
Detroit: The Tigers started their week with two games at U.S. Cellular. Rookie Drew Smyly had his first bad start of the season on Monday and the Tigers fell, wasting 12 hits, including 3 apiece from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Detroit added another 13 hits on Tuesday, getting 10 runs out of them in the process. Cabrera hit his 8th home run, Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson also homered. Max Scherzer has been up and down his entire career, mixing in really mediocre games with great ones (foreshadowing!), but the offense bailed him out on this day.
Next up was a quick series back in Detroit against the lowly Twins. Before the season started, there were concerns about Detroit’s infield defense. Cabrera shouldn’t really be playing 3B, and the rest of the guys aren’t exactly defensive wizards either. All four infielders made an error Wednesday, leading to four unearned runs in what ended up being a four-run game. Making matters worse, CF Austin Jackson, who’s been fantastic so far this season, left the game with an abdominal strain. By week’s end, he still had not returned. The Tigers made only two errors on Thursday, leading to only one unearned run. That one run was still the difference in the ballgame though, and the Tigers lost both games against Minnesota.
Friday night brought Pittsburgh to town, and showed the world how unfair it would be to allow Justin Verlander to pitch against the National League on a regular basis. The reigning Cy Young winner and MVP struck out 12 Pirates and took a no hitter into the 9th. He didn’t get the no-no, but a shutout is still pretty nice. Saturday saw Smyly get knocked around again and Detroit dropped the game. Sunday brought a second incredible pitching performance from the Tigers, as the good version of Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters in just 7 innings, a season high for all of baseball. I’m thinking I might be able to strikeout one or two Pirates right now. Prove me wrong, Pittsburgh, prove me wrong.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Prince Fielder – .464/.469/.857, that AVG was 2nd in the league, the SLG was 3rd, his 1.326 OPS was 2nd, tied for league lead with 13 hits and 7 XBH, had 6 runs, 8 RBI
Kansas City: The Royals began their week in Arlington, for two against the Rangers. Given K.C.’s pitching and Texas’ hitting, it was fair to expect the Rangers to score some runs. And they did… if four runs over two games counts as “some.” Bruce Chen shut Texas down for 6.2 innings Monday as the Royals won 3-1. Vin Mazzaro wasn’t quite as sharp Tuesday, but 3 runs over 5 innings against Texas isn’t bad either. It was 4-0 over the first, and the Royals never looked back, winning both games of the short series against the two-time defending A.L. champions.
The Royals returned home to host Baltimore next. The Royals were up 3-1 heading into the 9th, but closer Jonathan Broxton couldn’t hold the lead and the game went to extra innings. It remained knotted 3-3 until the 15th, when Baltimore’s Adam Jones hit a shot to leftfield, giving the Orioles the lead, which they held on to. Kansas City led for much of Thursday too, but lost that one as well, when Luke Hochevar was allowed to outstay his welcome. K.C. need not feel bad about losing two to Baltimore though; the Orioles currently have the best record in the American League!
The Diamondbacks were Kansas City’s Interleague date for the weekend. The Royals put up 10 hits Friday, but that wasn’t enough to avoid defeat. On Saturday Billy Butler hit his 8th HR of the season and Mike Moustakas added his 6th, Chen was more good than great this time out, but good was enough and K.C. tied up the series. In Sunday’s rubber match, the Royals got ten men on base, but not one of them came around to score, and they dropped the contest, 2-0.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Bruce Chen – 2 starts, 13 innings, 2.08 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11 K, on the mound for 2 of Kansas City’s 3 wins on the week
Minnesota: The Twins had two at home against the Indians to start their week. Minnesota put together a nice 8th inning comeback to tie the game, a Ryan Doumit home run doing most of the damage, but the game got away from them in the 11th. Carl Pavano gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, which is pretty close to par for the course for Pavano. The Twins fell behind early again on Tuesday, but didn’t both with the comeback this time out, and lost 5-0. Jason Marquis gave up 5 runs in 5 innings, which (sadly) is pretty par for the course as well.
The Twins headed to Detroit next, and it looked likely to be another lousy week for Minnesota. But with some help from Detroit’s defense, the Twinkies put up 11 runs Wednesday to win. Sure, Nick Blackburn lasted just 2 innings, but that’s a problem for another day (a problem for every 5th day, not to put too fine a point on it). Justin Morneau hit his 5th home run of the year on Thursday and Trevor Plouffe hit his second of the series, leading Minnesota to another win. Can you really be said to have swept a 2-game series? Yes, I say (don’t take that away from poor Minnesota)!
The Twins were off to Milwaukee for the weekend. Scott Diamond pitched the opener, and the Twins improved to 3-0 in games he’s started (they should probably just go to a 1-man rotation). Denard Span had 4 hits, Joe Mauer had 3, Josh Willingham hit his 8th HR. On Saturday Trevor Plouffe hit his 3rd HR of the week, a pinch hit job in the 11th game that provided the winning run. A 4-game winning streak for Minnesota! It all came crashing down on Sunday, as Milwaukee put up an entire weekend’s worth of runs and wrecked Minnesota, 16-4. I know the Twins are likely low on other options, but Jason Marquis probably shouldn’t be pitching for them right now. He gave up 8 runs and couldn’t escape the 2nd inning.
Record for the week: 4-3
Player of the week: Josh Willingham – .280/.400/.520, 4 XBH, 6 runs, 5 RBI
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, May 6th):
The Week Ahead:
Chicago: off Monday, 3 vs. MIN, 3 vs. CLE
Cleveland: off Monday, 3 vs. DET, 3 @ CWS
Detroit: off Monday, 3 @ CLE, 3 @ MIN
Kansas City: 3 @ NYY, off Thursday, 3 @ BAL
Minnesota: off Monday, 3 @ CWS, 3 vs. DET