The White Sox are rolling right now, and seem to be closing in on 1st place. Paul Konerko might be having the best season of his career; he leads MLB with a .399 batting average and has been one of the two or three best hitters in all of baseball so far. Few besides optimistic Sox fans expected the team to be strong contenders this season, but they’re certainly playing the part right now. Let’s take a look at what went down around the division in the A.L. Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The week began with the lowly Twins in town. Gavin Floyd couldn’t survive the 4th inning and was roughed up for 9 runs on the day, as the Sox dropped the opener. The bright spot for the evening was the return of Paul Konerko (with a nice shiner around his left eye) after he’d missed the previous couple game. Wednesday’s game went much better; Chris Sale threw 7 shutout innings, giving up just two singles along the way. Konerko led lineup, with 3 hits, including a HR. Philip Humber didn’t have much going, but the offense took care of Thursday’s rubber match, hitting 5 HR in an 11-8 slugfest win. Konerko continued his great season with his 10th HR of the season.
Next up at U.S. Cellular was a big series with the 1st place Indians. John Danks went on the DL with a strained shoulder; Carlos Quintana was called up and given the start in his place, and did a nice job of it. The Sox broke it open with 3 runs in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th for a comfortable win. Adam Dunn hit his 15th HR and A.J. Pierzynski, who’s been killing the Indians this season, added a HR and a 3B. On Saturday the Sox scored a whopping 14 runs on 17 hits, including 3 doubles by Konerko. Dayan Viciedo added 3 hits as well, including his 10th HR. Jake Peavy was not sharp, but picked a good day for that, and picked up a win despite giving up 7 runs in 6.1 innings (because pitcher wins are a silly, silly stat). And Sunday, more of the same, 12 runs on 15 hits, Gordon Beckham had 4 hits and Konerko hit his 400th HR as a member of the White Sox as the team finished off the sweep and pulled within a half game of 1st place.
Record for the week: 5-1
Player of the week: Paul Konerko – .583/.615/.1.125, an OPS of 1.740, 14 hits, 10 runs, 10 RBI, 27 total bases, all of which led the American League, Konerko was easily the best player in baseball last week
Cleveland: The Indians started their week with 3 games at home against the Tigers. Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t great Tuesday, but limited the scoring damage and got enough support as Cleveland won. Jason Kipnis broke out of a recent slump with 3 hits on Wednesday and scored what proved to be the game winning run in the 8th. On Thursday, Justin Masterson walked a tightrope, putting 10 men on base, but allowing just 1 to score. The offense managed only 2 runs, but against Verlander, that’s not so bad, and it was just enough for a sweep of the series. Of note: Chris Perez saved all 3 games, with a scoreless 9th in each contest.
The Tribe headed to U.S. Cellular next. They would be without Travis Hafner, who is out with knee pain, and may need surgery. Friday’s opener was close, but Manny Acta stayed with starter Jeanmar Gomez a little too long, and the game got out of hand. To make matters worse, Asdrubal Cabrera left with hamstring tightness and an inning later Carlos Santana exited after displaying concussion symptoms following a foul tip off his mask. The Indians were now without 3 of their 5 best hitters. On Saturday Kipnis did his best to pick up the slack, hitting 2 HR, but it wasn’t nearly enough, as first Derek Lowe and then the bullpen were rocked. On Sunday Jimenez continued his poor season and the pen had another bad day. After sweeping the Tigers and looking so strong, three key injuries and a horrible pitching weekend make Cleveland look ready to fall from atop the standings.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Jason Kipnis – .400/.423/.640, an OPS of 1.063, 10 hits, 2 HR, 5 runs, 4 RBI, 2 SB
Detroit: The Tigers were in Cleveland to begin their week. The series did not go their way. On Tuesday Rick Porcello gave up a run here, a run there and the offense bent Cleveland but couldn’t break it. It was more of the same on Wednesday, as Detroit managed 10 hits, but could only score 2. Doug Fister pitched pretty well, but the Tigers lost again. Fortunately for Detroit, Justin Verlander was on the mound, and pitched a complete game, giving up only two runs. Unfortunately for Detroit, that still wasn’t enough, as only 1 of 11 Detroit base-runners scored and the Tigers were swept, falling 6 games behind Cleveland in the standings.
The Tigers’ road trip headed to Minnesota for the weekend. The bats finally clicked on Friday and the Tigers won10-6. Prince Fielder, Delmon Young, and Brennan Boesch each had 3 of Detroit’s 16 hits. The offense slowed a bit on Saturday, but still put up 6 runs, with 4 hits by Fielder and a pair of doubles from Andy Dirks leading the way. Max Scherzer lasted just 5.1 innings, but struck out 9 and was followed by good relief work as the Tigers won 6-3. In Sunday’s finale, Detroit was down 3-2 heading into the 9th, but Miguel Cabrera changed that with a shot to deep center, and the Tigers had a clean sweep, making up all the ground they’d lost in their series with Cleveland.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Alex Avila – .333/.400/.611, a 1.011 OPS, 1 HR, 4 runs, 8 RBI
Kansas City: With the rest of the division playing one another, the Royals headed to the Bronx to start their week. Monday night Felipe Paulino pitched 6.2 scoreless frames, striking out 8. It was Paulino’s fourth start of the year, and in 3 of them he’s gone 6+ without giving up a run. Mike Moustakas, one of the few bright spots in K.C.’s lineup so far this season, hit his 7th HR. Tuesday and Wednesday both brought losses for the Royals, as the offense just couldn’t get things going. Billy Butler (the other bright spot for the Royals’ offense this year) did hit his team leading 9th HR.
Next stop for the Royals: Baltimore. Friday’s contest was basically over when the Orioles put up 5 runs in the 5th inning. Bruce Chen had been really good in his most recent starts, but didn’t have anything this time out. Jeff Francoeur hit his 3rd HR of the week, perhaps a sign that he’s going to get going now. Saturday, the Royals fell behind 3-0 early. The offense whittled away at the deficit, scoring a run in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, and the bullpen was strong. Butler hit his 10th HR and Eric Hosmer, who’s been off to a disappointing start after his strong rookie campaign, added 3 hits to boost his average above .200 for the first time since April 26th. Luke Hochevar gave way early Sunday, but the bullpen combined for 4.1 innings of 1-hit, shutout baseball, Butler and Francoeur both homered in the 4-2 Kansas City win.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Jeff Francoeur – .440/.440/1.000, an OPS of 1.440, 11 hits, 4 HR, 5 runs, 6 RBI, AVG was 2nd in the AL, SLG was tied for 2nd, OPS was 3rd
Minnesota: The Twins were in Chicago to begin the week, and the week began well for them, with P.J. Walters throwing a complete game for the win, the Twins’ first complete game of 2012. On Wednesday, the bats managed just 4 hits, all singles, and 3 Minnesota errors led to a series of unearned runs and the Twins fell 6-0, the 5th time they’ve been shutout this year. The offense found its stride Thursday, led by Justin Morneau, who had 2 HR and a 2B, but Cole DeVries, making his first Major League appearance, was roughed up in the 6th, and the bullpen was no better. The Twins dropped the game and the series.
The Twins returned home for the weekend to host Detroit, and once again put up some runs, but gave up even more, this time in a 10-6 loss. Anthony Swarzak had his first start on over a month, but was bad, Francisco Liriano, who has been pitching out of the bullpen recently, was maybe even worse. Saturday brought another bad start, this time from Carl Pavano, and another loss. Morneau hit another HR, and Denard Span added his 1st of the year, but the bats were otherwise pretty quiet, and the Twins struck out 16 times. Not pretty. The Twins seemed primed for a win on Sunday, taking a 3-2 lead into the 9th, but Matt Capps couldn’t lock it down, and Minnesota was swept away.
Record for the week: 1-5
Player of the week: Joe Mauer – .348/.464/.522, a .986 OPS, 8 hits, 5 BB, 1 HR, 6 runs
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, May 27th):
The Week Ahead: