After what felt to me like two weeks without baseball, the second-half began on Friday. The trade deadline is only two weeks away and teams will soon have to decide whether they’re buying, selling, or standing pat. The most likely challenger to Chicago’s hold on 1st place moved into 2nd over the weekend and three games between the Sox and Tigers in Detroit this weekend (including Sale vs. Verlander, Friday night!) loom large for both teams. Let’s take a look at the A.L. Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The White Sox were in Kansas City for the weekend. Adam Dunn was there for the All-Star Game, but didn’t get a chance to hit. That looks like a mistake now. In Friday’s opener, Jose Quintana lasted just 5 innings, but Dunn, Alex Rios, and Dayan Viciedo had all homered by then, and the Sox were up 6-5. That score stood ‘til the 8th, when Nate Jones got into trouble and K.C. took the lead. The Sox knotted it up in the 9th though, then took the lead in the 12th, but Addison Reed couldn’t finish things off and the Royals tied it again. A Kevin Youkilis fly ball scored Gordon Beckham in the next inning though, and the Sox held on for a wild 9-8 win. On Saturday Jake Peavy didn’t have his best stuff. He avoided disaster though and it was a close game, when Peavy was surprisingly sent back out for the 8th, having already thrown 110 pitches. The two runs Kansas City scored that inning weren’t the difference, as the Sox lost by three, but it was still a questionable decision, I think. Dunn hit his 27th home run in the loss. Chris Sale pitched the rubber match, and he was on point, going 8 innings while allowing just one run. Dunn’s 3rd home run in as many days was the highlight on offense, quite a weekend he had.
Record for the week: 2-1
Player of the week: Adam Dunn
Cleveland: The Indians traveled to Toronto to begin their second-half. Justin Masterson was on the mound Friday and had one of his best starts of the year, pitching 7 shutout innings and giving up only 5 hits. The Indians didn’t manage much offense themselves, but a Travis Hafner solo shot provided the only run they needed in a 1-0 victory. Saturday’s starter, Ubaldo Jimenez didn’t have the same stuff as Masterson, he gave up 8 innings and didn’t survive the 3rd inning. Cleveland was behind 10-2 by the end of that inning. Home runs by Shelley Duncan, Michael Brantley, and Casey Kotchman made a game of it, but the comeback fell short and the Indians lost 11-9. Sunday afternoon Derek Lowe took the hill. His outing was somewhere in the vast middle between Masterson and Jimenez’s, he gave up 3 runs over 6 innings. Cleveland mustered only 5 hits though, and didn’t score a single run, falling 3-0 and dropping into 3rd place in the Central.
Record for the week: 1-2
Player of the week: Justin Masterson
Detroit: The Tigers week really began with the top of the 1st inning in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, when Justin Verlander gave up 5 runs, meaning whatever team wins the American League will be on the road come Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, I imagine Detroit fans would take their chances with Verlander on the mound in any ballpark come October. The Tigers were in Baltimore to begin their second-half and on Friday Doug Fister made his best start in a while, going 7 strong innings. Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta each went deep in a 7-2 Detroit win. The bad Max Scherzer showed up Saturday, lasting just 5 innings. A 9th inning rally sent the game to extra frames, but Detroit lost in the 13th when Joaquin Benoit couldn’t hold a lead. Verlander pitched in Sunday’s contest and had no trouble putting his rough inning in Kansas City behind him, pitching 8 shutout innings, striking out 8 while giving up just 3 hits. The win, which also featured home runs from Austin Jackson and Cabrera, moved Detroit into 2nd place.
Record for the week: 2-1
Player of the week: Miguel Cabrera
Kansas City: The highlight of Kansas City’s week was probably their impressive booing of Robinson Cano, the New York Yankee star who’d vowed to choose a Royal for the Home Run Derby, but then went back on his word. The All-Star festivities were a big success, but the regular season returned on Friday. Bruce Chen was not ready for it; he gave up 6 runs before being chased in the 5th inning. The Royals got 17 hits, including 3 from Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas’ 16th home run of the year, but still fell in extra frames. Alcides Escobar hit 2 home runs on Saturday, matching his previous total for the entire season, and the Royals got a 6-3 win to even the series. They could manage only a single run Sunday though, and lost the finale, dropping them 10.5 games out of first place.
Record for the week: 1-2
Player of the week: Alcides Escobar
Minnesota: The Twins go into the second-half with what should be modest goals, avoiding last place would be reasonable. The A’s were in town for the weekend; they would prove to be less than ideal guests. Francisco Liriano started Friday’s opener and struck out 15 Oakland hitters, setting a career high and tying the second highest total in Minnesota Twins history. He lasted 8 innings, but also gave up 4 runs, and on this night that was too many for the Minnesota offense to overcome, despite 2 home runs from Josh Willingham. Willingham homered again on Saturday (his 22nd of the year), but Cole DeVries gave up 7 runs in 5 innings and the Twins fell again. Sunday was more of the same, this time it was Brian Duensing getting rocked. The Twins were swept, getting outscored 24-10 in the process, and now have the worst record in the American League and the worst run differential (they’ve been outscored by 101 runs this year) in all of baseball. Ouch.
Record for the week: 0-3
Player of the week: Josh Willingham
The short of it: The White Sox have a 3.5 game cushion, about as big as they’ve seen all year. The Tigers are charging though, they now sit in 2nd place and I expect they’ll be the Sox main competition the rest of the way. Cleveland is still in it, but they’ve been slowly fading for over a month, and I see that continuing. They have too many holes in their lineup, and not enough talent in their rotation. Kansas City, if they hadn’t already, should be turning its attention to 2013. They’ve got a lot of good young players and could be competitive next season if they can find more pitching. The Twins… well, they’re only 2.5 games out of 4th place, so there’s that.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, July 8th):
The Week Ahead:
4 @ BOS
3 @ DET
4 @ TB
4 vs. BAL (including next Monday)
4 vs. LAA
3 vs. CHW
4 vs. SEA
3 vs. MIN
4 vs. BAL
3 @ KC