AL Central standings (through Sunday, June 8):
The Tigers lead shrank as they posted another losing week while the Indians and Royals both surged upwards. No other division is as wide open as the AL Central, where even the last-place team fancies itself a contender.
Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week, with highlights, lowlights, injury updates, and more:
Detroit Tigers (2-4)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers hosted the Blue Jays to start the week. Anibal Sanchez pitched 7 shutout innings in the opener, but got no run support, so the game was still tied in the 9th when Joe Nathan came. He allowed four baserunners (all of whom would score) while recording only one out, and Detroit lost 5-3. Rick Porcello pitched fairly well Wednesday, and Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler each homered, but the bullpen was a mess again, allowing 5 runs in the final two innings and putting the game out of reach. On Thursday Justin Verlander's troubles continued, as he allowed 6 runs in 7 innings and the Tigers were swept at home by Toronto for the first time since 2003.
Boston was next into town, and Friday night Detroit ended its losing streak on the strength of home runs by Kinsler, Torii Hunter, and Victor Martinez. Saturday the Tigers posted 8 runs on 16 hits (including a pair of doubles by Cabrera) and grabbed another victory. All was not well though, as Nathan allowed 2 more runs in a non-save situation. His ERA is now a very ugly 7.04, and the 2-year, $20-million deal he signed isn't looking good for Detroit. The Tigers were two outs away from a sweep Sunday night, but Joba Chamberlain (in a save opportunity) gave up a three-run bomb to David Ortiz (who still may not have finished rounding the bases), and the Tigers lost 5-3.
Random Stat of the Week: Another bad week has raised the Detroit bullpen's ERA to 4.77, which is the worst mark in MLB.
Cleveland Indians (5-1)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians began their week by hosting Boston, who'd won 7 in a row. The Tribe put an end to that with a 3-2 win on the strength of 7 shutout innings by Justin Masterson, who threw 25 consecutive strikes at one point, including a perfect 3-strikeouts-on-9-pitches inning. Cleveland won again on Tuesday, this time behind w hits apiece from Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Yan Gomes. Corey Kluber had his first rocky start in more than a month Wednesday, cruising through 5 innings but then allow 4 runs in the 6th and 7th. The game went to extra innings and in the bottom of the 12th Asdrubal Cabrera hit a 3-run walk-off blast to complete the sweep.
The weekend brought a trip to Texas for the first three of four games against the Rangers. Home runs by Chisenhall and Cabrera off Yu Darvish had the game tied going into the later innings, but the Tribe bullpen allowed a pair and the 6-game winning streak ended with a 6-4 loss. On the plus side, Carlos Santana returned after missing 9 games with a concussion. His return paid off on Saturday, when he went 2 for 2 with a pair of walks and a 2-run homer. Gomes went deep too, and Josh Tomlin pitched 8 innings in an 8-3 win. Masterson gave up 2 runs in 5.2 inning Sunday, and then bullpen followed with 3.1 shutout frames, helping the Indians to a 3-2 victory. The two teams will wrap up the series Monday.
Random Stat of the Week: Lonnie Chisenhall is a few plate appearances short of being officially qualified, but among 125 AL batters with 150+ PA, his wRC+ (a whopping 171) is behind only Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista.
Kansas City Royals (5-2)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals played four games against the Cardinals this week, the first two in St. Louis. Danny Duffy and the bullpen combined for a shutout Monday, while 3 hits by Salvador Perez paced the offense. Alex Gordon homered too, then homered again Tuesday in a back-and-forth game. KC was down late, but tied the game in the 8th, then pullled ahead and won in the 9th. The Royals rallied late again back home on Wednesday, tying the game in the 9th, but they lost in extra innings, wasting 8 strong innings from Jason Vargas. Yordano Ventura returned on Thursday after missing his previous start, and did quality work, helping Kansas City take 3 of 4 from their cross-state rivals.
The Yankees paid a weekend visit next, and on account of getting only 7 hits all night, the Royals dropped the opener. The lineup woke back up on Saturday though, getting 12 hits this time, including home runs by Perez and Eric Hosmer in an 8-4 win. Kansas City took an early 2-0 lead Sunday, and James Shields made it hold up by allowing only an unearned run in 6 innings before the bullpen came on for the final nine outs, giving KC its first 5-win week since the middle of April. The series will conclude on Monday.
Random Stat of the Week: The Royals have a team slugging percentage of .355, which is the worst in the American League, and the worst in franchise history since 1972.
Chicago White Sox (2-4)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox spent the week in southern California, beginning with 3 games against the Dodgers. Jose Abreu returned from the DL and hit a 2-run homer off Clayton Kershaw in the 4th inning, but Chicago was otherwise unable to solve the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and lost 5-2. Abreu homered again on Saturday. Tyler Flowers went long too, and Hector Noesi pitched the Pale Hose to a 4-1 win. In Sunday afternoon's rubber match Chicago got 7.1 good innings from John Danks and a pair of solo blasts courtesy of Leury Garcia and Adam Dunn, giving them enough for a narrow 2-1 victory.
After a day off and a short jaunt down the highway, the Sox faced the Angels over the weekend. Things did not go well. Dunn and Alejandro De Aza homered, but it wasn't nearly enough to fight off Andre Rienzo giving up 7 runs before exiting in the 4th inning of an 8-4 Chicago loss. Chris Sale was incredible for 7 innings Saturday, but in the 8th he gave up a grand slam to Mike Trout, part of an outburst that turned a 5-0 White Sox lead into a 6-5 loss. Jose Quintana wasn't at his best on Sunday and Chicago's offense never got anything going as they were swept out of Orange County.
Random Stat of the Week: Jose Abreu has hit 17 home runs in his first 50 MLB games. That ties him with Wally Joyner for 2nd all-time, just behind Wally Berger, who hit 18. So, Abreu stands alone among non-Wallys.
Minnesota Twins (3-4)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins had two in Milwaukee to begin their week, before Milwaukee visited them for a pair. Joe Mauer had 3 hits on Monday, but Minnesota left 9 men on base and lost 6-2. On Tuesday they made better use of their baserunners, largely by driving them in with home runs (Josh Willingham and Brian Dozier each had one), and won 6-4. Oswaldo Arcia drove in 4 with a single and a home run on Wednesday, leading the Twins to another 6-4 win. Arcia then hit a grand slam on Thursday, putting them ahead 4-0, but Kevin Correia gave up a pair of home runs to squander the lead, and Minnesota had to settle for a split of the four games.
Next came three games against Houston. Phil Hughes put the Twins in a 5-0 hole Fridy night, and try as they might, they couldn't quite come back, losing 5-4. They rebounded for an easy 8-0 win the next afternoon, getting 7 shutout innings from Kyle Gibson and 4 hits from Danny Santana. Minnesota got bounced badly in Sunday's rubber match, losing 14-5 after issuing 8 walks and giving up 13 hits, including 4 home runs.
The big story of the weekend for the Twins wasn't losing 2 of 3 to the Astros though, it was signing Kendrys Morales to a prorated 1-year, $12-million deal (which will pay him ~$7.5 millon over the remainder of the season). A last place team might seem an odd fit, but in this year's AL Central, everyone still fancies themselves a contender.
Random Stat of the Week: Twins pitchers are striking out only 6.12 batters per 9 innings, which is the lowest rate in baseball. This is nothing new, as Minnesota also finished dead last in 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Indians: Zach McAllister (SP) is on the DL with a lower back strain, he could return this week; Nyjer Morgan (OF) is on the DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break; Nick Swisher (1B) is on the DL with a hyper extended left knee, he could return this week
Royals: Bruce Chen (SP) is on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back, he could return this week; Danny Valencia (3B) is on the DL with a muscle strain in his left hand, he could return next week
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (1B) exited Sunday's game with tightness in his left hamstring, he's considered day-today; Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return in late June; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, he could join the team in late June; Jose Iglesias (SS) is on the DL with fractured shins, the Tigers announced he will not return this season; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the DL with right elbow inflammation, he could return next week
Twins: Sam Fuld (OF) is on the DL with a concussion; he could be back this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the DL with a strained left groin, he will be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews this week
White Sox: Nate Jones (RP) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could be back after the All-Star break; Matt Lindstrom is on the DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return in August; Felipe Paulino (SP) is on the DL with right rotator cuff soreness, he could return next week
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Phil Hughes (MIN) - 75.1 IP, 3.46 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 116 ERA+, 7.5 K/9, 1.0 BB/9
4) Anibal Sanchez (DET) - 56.1 IP, 2.24 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 188 ERA+, 8.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
3) Chris Sale (CWS) - 52.1 IP, 2.06 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 200 ERA+, 10.0 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
2) Max Scherzer (DET) - 85.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 125 ERA+, 10.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
1) Corey Kluber (CLE) - 86.1 IP, 3.23 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 118 ERA+, 10.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
The Week Ahead
Royals: 1 vs. Yankees, 2 vs. Indians, 3 @ White Sox
Tigers: 4 @ White Sox, 3 vs. Twins
Twins: 3 @ Blue Jays, 3 @ Tigers
White Sox: 4 vs. Tigers, 3 vs. Royals