The White Sox were at home for their last week before the All-Star break, looking to end the first-half on a high note and build on their lead within the division. Other teams looked to stay close enough to feel like real contenders going into the second-half. Let’s take a look at the A.L. Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The White Sox got their week off to a great start as they destroyed Texas by a score of 19-2, the largest margin of victory by any team this season. Kevin Youkilis hit a HR in his first AB as a White Sox at U.S. Cellular, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and A.J. Pierzynski also went yard. Chris Sale continued his dominance with 7.1 innings impressive frames. Wednesday’s game was much closer, going extra innings, but a Youkilis single plated the winning run in the 10th. Jose Quintana went 8 innings in the series finale and Youkilis played hero again with another HR as the Sox swept Texas.
The Blue Jays were next into town but Jake Peavy made sure the Sox kept rolling, giving up just 1 run over 7.1 innings. A home run by Pierzynski was the capper in a 4-1 win. Gavin Floyd topped his rotation-mates by pitching 7.2 shutout innings, giving up just 4 hits. Youkilis’ third HR of the week provided both runs in a 2-0 victory. The Sox entered Sunday looking for a perfect week, but Dylan Axelrod didn’t have anything to offer and it was 8-3 Toronto after 4 innings. The Sox battled back, getting 3 hits from Youkilis, Rios, and Alexei Ramirez, but it wasn’t enough. A great week (and first-half) ended on a minor down note, but left the Sox in very good shape.
Record for the week: 5-1
Player of the week: Kevin Youkilis – .478/.571/.913, 1.484 OPS, 11 hits, 3 HR, 5 BB, 7 runs, 10 RBI
Cleveland: The Indians hosted the fast-charging Angels to begin their week. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well Monday, giving up just 3 runs over 7.2 innings, but Anaheim’s Jered Weaver didn’t surrender any runs in 7 innings and Cleveland fell 3-0. The bats came alive for the Indians on Tuesday, with 9 runs on 14 hits in a big win. The Cleveland offensive fireworks continued during the 4th of July rubber match, with 12 more runs on 15 more hits, including home runs by Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman and 3 hits by Johnny Damon as the Indians took the game and the series.
The Rays came to Cleveland next. Josh Tomlin gave up just 1 run on 2 hits over 7 innings Thursday and the Indians got home runs from Shin-Soo Choo, Brantley, and Travis Hafner (in his second game back from knee surgery) in a 3-1 win. Justin Masterson, who’s been very inconsistent this season, was roughed up Friday in a 10-3 loss. Jimenez made another strong start Saturday and this time got some run support as Cleveland won. The Indians were up 5-0 through 5 innings Sunday, but an Asdrubal Cabrera error followed by a series of hits let Tampa Bay back in. Cleveland still led 6-4 going into the 9th, but for the first time since Opening Day, Chris Perez blew a save and the Indians dropped the game, settling for a split series.
Record for the week: 4-3
Player of the week: Casey Kotchman – .450/.500/.800, 1.300 OPS, 9 hits, 2 HR, 5 runs, 6 RBI
Detroit: The Tigers hosted Minnesota during the week. Doug Fister lasted just 4 innings, giving up 6 runs along the way in a Tigers loss. Max Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start for precautionary reasons and replacement Duane Below had a hard time of things in another Tigers’ defeat Tuesday. Justin Verlander put an end to the losing streak Wednesday with his league leading 5th complete game of 2012. Miguel Cabrera added his 17th and 18th HR of the year. Detroit got great work from its bullpen on Thursday and home runs from Prince Fielder and Delmon Young helped them come back to split the series.
For the weekend the Royals came to town and on Friday Drew Smyly made his first quality start since early May, striking out 10 and giving up just 2 runs over 6 innings. Jose Valverde picked up his 16th save in the Detroit win. Fister was on the hill again Saturday and while he gave up 4 runs over 6 innings, 3 hits from Austin Jackson and Gerald Laird and home runs from Prince Fielder and Young led the Tigers to victory. Scherzer returned for Sunday’s contest and was sharp over 7 innings, yielding just 1 run on 5 hits. Jhonny Peralta, Fielder, and Young all homered as Detroit swept the Royals under the rug. Jackson carried a 15-game hitting streak into the break.
Record for the week: 5-2
Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera – .440/.448/.800, 1.091 OPS, 11 hits, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 runs, 9 RBI
Kansas City: The Royals were north of the border last week to face the Blue Jays. Monday the offense put up 11 runs on 14 hits in an easy win. A grand slam by Mike Moustakas capped the scoring. On Tuesday starter Vin Mazzaro was shellacked for 13 hits over 5.1 innings, leading to 6 runs in a Kansas City loss. A pair of hits from Moustakas, along with 2 for Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francoeur weren’t enough to prevent a second loss in a row for the Royals on Wednesday, but they bounced back in a big way Thursday, with every starter getting at least one hit in a 9-6 win, including 4 from Salvador Perez.
The Royals headed to Detroit next. In Friday night’s game, the Royals lost as Jonathan Sanchez gave further evidence that he shouldn’t be pitching in the big leagues these days (though giving up 4 runs over 5.2 innings actually lowered his ERA). Saturday was Bruce Chen getting roughed up, he didn’t survive the 4th inning and despite Moustakas’ 15th HR of the year and 3 hits from Escobar and Billy Butler, Kansas City fell again. In Sunday’s finale, the Royals never got anything going and Everett Teaford, recently added to the rotation, gave up 5 runs over just 4.1 innings and the Royals were swept.
Record for the week: 2-5
Player of the week: Salvador Perez – .409/.409/.682, 1.091 OPS, 9 hits, 2 HR, 6 runs, 3 RBI
Minnesota: The Twins began their week in the Motor City and Monday brought the 900th win of Ron Gardenhire’s time as Twins skipper. It was classic “piranha” baseball, 13 hits, all of them singles. Tuesday saw HR from Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe, and Joe Mauer, leading the Twins to another victory. Minnesota managed just 4 hits on Wednesday and lost 4-1, then saw a 3-2 lead on vanish in the 8th inning on Thursday when three relievers combined to give up 5 runs, forcing the Twins to settle for a split of the series. Not a bad result, but disappointing after they won the first two.
The Twins headed south to Arlington next for 3 with the Rangers. Francisco Liriano limited their potent lineup to just 1 run over 6.2 innings and a Justin Morneau home run highlighted the scoring in a 5-1 Minnesota win. Morneau added another 2 hits Saturday and Willingham hit his 19th HR of the year, but the Twins fell in the 10th inning by a score of 4-3. In Sunday’s finale Cole DeVries was great, shutting Texas out for 7 innings and giving up just 3 hits.In the 9th inning though, an errant throw by SS Brian Dozier led to 3 runs, tying the game and forcing extra innings for the second day in a row. It took 13 innings this time, but the Twins again lost 4-3.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Joe Mauer – .345/.429/.483, .911 OPS, 10 hits, 5 BB, 1 HR, 6 runs, 5 RBI
The short of it: The White Sox end the first-half with a 3-game lead over their closest competitor, having scored the most runs of any team in the division and having given up the fewest. They’ve been the class of the A.L. Central. Cleveland had a solid week and finds itself above .500 at the break for the second year in a row, but they have been outscored and after spending much of April and May in 1st, they seem likely to fade further, just as they did in 2011. Detroit ended the first half on a high note and has a positive run differential (meaning they’ve outscored their opponents for the first time in a long while. They seem poised to put a lot of pressure on the Sox in the second half. Kansas City had a rough week and has faded back out of contention after climbing in the standing s during late June. Minnesota has been arguably the worst team in the American League but has nearly climbed out of the basement and no longer looks like a 100-loss team.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, July 8th):
The Week Ahead:
3 @ KC
3 @ TOR
All-Star break 3 @ BAL
3 vs. CHW
3 vs. OAK