Going into last week, every White Sox fan anticipated the return of Chris Sale, after his previous start was skipped due to a “dead arm.” Losing him for an extended period of time would be an awful blow to the team’s chances of making the playoffs. The Sox were looking to build on a 1.5 game lead in the division; on paper Chicago had an easier slate of games scheduled for the week than the Tigers, but since they don’t play the games on paper, let’s take a look at the A.L. Central Week in Review:
Chicago: The Sox hosted Kansas City to begin their week. On Monday Chris Sale returned and had another terrific outing. He pitched 8 innings, giving up just 2 runs, and struck out 7. A.J. Pierzynski continued his hot hitting with a pair of hits, while Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham each homered. Sale’s performance led to a massive sigh of relief on the South Side. Beckham homered again on Tuesday, but there wasn’t much other offense and Jake Peavy wasn’t quite sharp enough (he gave up 3 runs over 6.2 innings) for the team to win without more help from the offense. Jose Quintana was solid in the rubber match, but the offense was shut out until scoring a single run in the 9th and the Sox dropped the game (and the series) 2-1.
Oakland was next into town. Gavin Floyd kept the Sox in the game Friday night and four different players hit solo home runs, including the game winner by Jordan Danks in the 9th. Francisco Liriano had his first bad start as a member of the team Saturday, giving up 6 runs and being chased during the 6th inning. Philip Humber was strong in a long relief appearance though and the Sox battled back to take a 7-6 lead into the 8th. Matt Thornton coughed the lead up though, and Brett Myers, who hadn’t given up a run since joining the team, let one in during the 9th, as the Sox fell. Chris Sale was on the mound again for Sunday’s finale and he didn’t disappoint. He went 6.2 innings, gave up just 2 runs, and struck out 11against 0 walks. The offense scored 7 runs in the win, highlighted by Pierzynski’s 23rd home run of the year.
Record for the week: 3-3
Player of the week: Chris Sale – 2 starts, 14.2 IP, 18 K, 2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Detroit: The Tigers hosted New York for four games last week. Justin Verlander started the first of them and struck out 14 batters while going 8 strong innings. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera each homered in a 7-2 win. Cabrera went long again Tuesday, his 29th of the year, and while the contest was closer, the Tigers won again. Anibal Sanchez, acquired a couple weeks ago, could not keep things rolling for Detroit on Wednesday though, he was battered for 7 runs and pulled with no outs in the 4th inning; the Tigers fell 12-8. Detroit was up 3-2 in the 8th inning of Thursday’s finale, five outs from taking 3 of 4 in the series, but Joaquin Benoit gave up back-to-back home runs and the game got away from Detroit. They had to settle for a series split.
The Tigers traveled to Texas for the weekend to face the Rangers. Home runs from Fielder and Austin Jackson and a solid start from Max Scherzer gave Detroit a win in the opener. Verlander was his usual dominant self on Saturday, allowing just 1 run over 7 innings, striking out 8. But the Tigers managed just 5 hits and 1 run of their own all game and a 9th inning run for Texas ended the game. The offense didn’t do much better in Sunday’s finale and Rick Porcello couldn’t keep the Rangers’ dangerous lineup at bat. A 3-4 week against the American League’s two best teams isn’t the worst result in the world, but Detroit let a couple very winnable games get away from them.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Justin Verlander – 2 starts, 15 IP, 22 K, 0.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Cleveland: The Indians lost their first two games of the week (to Minnesota), which extended their losing streak to 11-games, tied for the second worst streak in franchise history. On Wednesday they finally won a game, led by 7 strong innings from Justin Masterson and 4 hits from Shin-Soo Choo. Boston came to town next, for 4 games. The Tribe won 2 of the first 3, but was demolished 14-1 in Sunday’s finale.
Record for the week: 3-4
Kansas City: The Royals took two out of three from the White Sox to begin their week, in a series that included 8 shutout innings from Jeremy Guthrie on Wednesday. Kansa City then traveled to Baltimore, where they split a 4-game series with the Orioles. Billy Butler had 3 hits Thursday, including a HR, he added another on Saturday, giving him 24 on the year. Alex Gordon had 3 home runs in the series as well.
Record for the week: 4-3
Minnesota: The Twins week began with a romp over the Indians. Josh Willingham hit his 29th HR of the year and Justin Morneau added a pair of them (14 and 15). Minnesota also took the second game in Cleveland, before dropping the finale. The Twins returned to Minnesota for a series with Tampa Bay and were promptly swept. Run prevention continued to be a problem for the Twinkies, they allowed 23 of them to the Rays over the weekend.
Record for the week: 2-4
The short of it: Chris Sale was great in both of his starts for the week, and while the team must monitor his shoulder carefully the rest of the way and may choose to skip his turn once or twice more, for the most part it seems they can count on his being there the rest of the way. The White Sox are on the road for the week ahead and are without a day off. Neither opponent has been great this season, but so many consecutive games in a row can take their toll, especially away from home. The Sox must guard against letting lesser teams outplay them. If their lead over Detroit holds steady and stands at 1.5 or 2.5 games when this week ends, the Sox should be happy.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, August 12th):
The Week Ahead:
4 @ TOR
3 @ KC
3 @ LAA
3 @ OAK
3 @ MIN
3 vs. BAL
3 vs. OAK
3 vs. CHW
3 vs. DET
3 @ SEA