The next three weeks will present a real test of the White Sox mettle, as after a day off today, they play 19 games in 20 days, with 13 of them on the road. With six games at home this week, three of them against one of the worst teams in baseball, it looked like the White Sox might have a chance to build on their 2.5 game lead in the division. The Blue Jays and Astros had other ideas though, and it was anything but an easy stretch. Meanwhile, the rest of the division was fighting to catch the South Siders. Let’s take a look at the A.L. Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The week began with the Blue Jays in town. Philip Humber was on the mound and his rough stretch continued as he walked 4, gave up 7 hits, including 2 home runs, and lasted just 5 innings in 9-5 Sox loss. On Wednesday the Pale Hose were dominated by Toronto’s Brandon Morrow in a 4-0 shutout. Two singles by A.J. Pierzynski were the White Sox only hits on the day. Jake Peavy pitched Thursday; he wasn’t his sharpest, but kept the Sox in the game. An Alex Rios home run tied it in the 6th, and Orlando Hudson singled to score Dayan Viciedo in the 9th, salvaging one win for the series.
Next into town were the Houston Astros, expected by many to be the very worst team in baseball his season (instead, they’ve only been the 6th or 7th worst team!). Gavin Floyd pitched the opener, and while he gave up just 4 hits and struck out 9, he was bitten twice by the long ball and took the loss. On Saturday Chris Sale put together another dominant performance, with 8 shutout innings, dropping his ERA to an A.L. best 2.05. The offense put up 10 runs, led by 3 hits from Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn’s 19th home run of the year. Humber pitched poorly again Sunday (and may soon be headed out of the rotation) and the Sox fell behind 9-3 in the 6th. Home runs by Dunn (his 20th), Paul Konerko (his 12th) and Hudson (his 1st with the team) made things interesting, but the Sox dropped the game and the series.
Record for the week: 2-4
Player of the week: Alex Rios – .375/.375/.583, an OPS of .958, 9 hits, 1 HR, 1 SB, 4 runs, 4 RBI
Cleveland: The Indians went to Detroit for three games. Ubaldo Jimenez, who’s leading the league in walks this season, was on his game Tuesday and the Indians used triples from Asdrubal Cabrera, Lou Marson, and Michael Brantley to win. Also, Carlos Santana returned after being out 10 days with a concussion. Brantley and Casey Kotchman homered on Wednesday and Shin-Soo Choo added 3 hits in another Cleveland victory. The Indians couldn’t get the sweep, as Derek Lowe was roughed up Thursday but it was still a good series for Cleveland, who’d been struggling since sweeping Detroit two weeks ago.
The Indians were off to St. Louis for the weekend for 3 games with the defending World Champions. Josh Tomlin pitched 7 strong innings, Brantley, Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis each had a pair of hits, and Cleveland took the opener. On Saturday Justin Masterson pitched well, but got no help from the offense, which managed just three singles and not a single run. In Sunday’s rubber match Jimenez gave up just 1 run over 7 innings, and didn’t walk anyone (allowing him to fall out of the league lead in walks). A 3-run home run by Kipnis (one of 3 hits on the day for him) put Cleveland ahead in the 9th and Chris Perez came on to record his league leading 20th save as the Indians took the series.
Record for the week: 4-2
Player of the week: Ubaldo Jimenez – 2 starts, A.L. leading 13.2 innings, 11 K, 1.32 ERA (led A.L., among pitchers who started 2 games last week), 0.80 WHIP (2nd in A.L.)
Detroit: The Tigers were hosting the Indians early last week, looking for better results than they had in their trip to Cleveland two weeks earlier. Detroit couldn’t get much offense going on Tuesday, and fell by a score of 4-2. The lineup did better on Wednesday, getting 6 extra-base hits, including a 2B and HR from Miguel Cabrera, but the bad Max Scherzer showed up and the Tigers lost again. On Thursday Cabrera homered hit another HR (his 13th) and the rest of the team was good enough to get the win, avoiding what would have been a second sweep by the Indians in two weeks.
The Tigers were in Cincinnati next. Rick Porcello started on Friday, but only lasted 5 innings, giving up 4 runs. Detroit led 5-4 in the middle of the 8th, but let the Reds tie it up in the bottom half. Brennan Boesch had 3 hits, including his 6th HR, but the Tigers lost in 10 innings. Justin Verlander was on the mound Saturday. He wasn’t at his best, but he limited the Reds to 2 runs over 6 innings. Prince Fielder had a pair of hits, including a HR, as Detroit won. Austin Jackson also returned after missing more than 3 weeks. He should jumpstart the Tigers’ offense a bit. In Sunday night’s game, Detroit was down 6-3 going into the 8th, but put together a big rally, highlighted by a ground rule double from Jackson that scored 2, and the Tigers pulled out the win.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera – .304/.385/.652, an OPS of 1.037, 7 hits, 3 BB, 2 HR, 3 runs, 7 RBI
Kansas City: The Royals hosted Minnesota for three games and lost the opener 10-7. Starter Will Smith gave up 3 home runs and 7 runs altogether; he couldn’t escape the 5th inning. Mike Moustakas had 3 hits, including his 9th HR, but the hole was too deep. In Tuesday’s game, Bruce Chen pitched 7 shutout innings and Jonathan Broxton picked up his 14th save for K.C. In the series finale the bats again fell silent; a 2-run HR from Yuniesky Betancourt provided the only Kansas City runs. Felipe Paulino, who had pitched very well over six starts, left in the 1st innings with a groin injury; he would later be placed on the DL. The Royals lost, 4-2.
The Royals headed to Pittsburgh next, but Friday brought another 4-2 defeat, as Kansas City mustered only 5 hits. In fact, a lack of scoring would plague the Royals all weekend. On Saturday they scored only 3 runs, but that was actually the second highest production of the weekend. Betancourt somehow hit his 2nd HR of the week (his 2nd and 3rd of the season) and Eric Hosmer added a pair of doubles, but that was about it. Sunday was another 2-run day and a decent outing from Chen wasn’t nearly enough. The loss left Kansas City just a half game away from the division’s basement.
Record for the week: 1-5
Player of the week: Bruce Chen – 2 starts, 12 IP, 10 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP (led A.L., among pitchers who started 2 games last week)
Minnesota: The Twins traveled to Kansas City to begin their week, they would be without Jao Mauer, out with a thumb injury. In Monday’s contest, Ben Revere had 3 hits, while Josh Willingham (11), Justin Morneau (10), and Trevor Plouffe (7) all had home runs. Tuesday’s game was a different story, as Minnesota was shutout, wasting 6 strong innings from Francisco Liriano, who had his second straight good outing, after a horrid start to his season. The Twins bounced back in the rubber match though, taking it 4-2 behind a decent Nick Blackburn start, 4 shutout innings from the bullpen, and a pair of RBI from Morneau.
The weekend saw the Twins return home to host the Cubs, one of the few teams in baseball who’s been worse than Minnesota this year. The series opener included a lot of offense, and a lot of drama. The Twins fell behind 2-0, but tied it on a home run by Plouffe, fell behind again, but came back to take a 6-5 lead in the 7th, only to fall behind yet again in the 8th. A Morneau triple in the 9th tied it though, and a Willingham singled plated the winning run in the 10th. On Saturday the bats kept it going. Plouffe had his 3rd home run of the week, Joe Mauer returned and had 3 hits, part of an 11-run attack. Scott Diamond also pitched 6 scoreless innings. The Twins dropped Sunday’s finale, but it was still a successful week and Minnesota finds itself as close to .500 as it’s been since very early May.
Record for the week: 4-2
Player of the week: Trevor Plouffe – .304/.360/.783, an OPS of 1.143, 7 hits, 3 HR, 5 runs, 6 RBI
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, June 10th):
The Week Ahead:
3 @ STL
3 @ LAD
3 @ CIN
3 vs PIT
3 @ CHC
3 vs. COL
3 vs. MIL
3 @ STL
3 vs. PHI
3 vs. MIL