All of a sudden things have gotten rather interesting in the AL Central. Going into the break, the Tigers had a pretty comfortable lead over both the Royals (6.5) and the Indians (7.5). Either of those clubs would have to really go on a tear just to get within striking distance. But after three head-to-head wins by the Tribe over Detroit, the standings have changed quite a bit, with the Indians only trailing the Tigers by 4.5 games, and ahead of the Royals by 1.5 games. There's still the matter of today's game, which if the Tigers win would steal some of the Tribe's momentum, but even if that happens the Indians will have had a fantastic series.
Doubleheader sweeps are really difficult to pull off with today's bullpen usage. Usually you need either a blowout win or a complete game in one of the wins to pull off the sweep, and thanks to Corey Kluber's dominating 8.2 innings in Game 1, Terry Francona was able to manage Game 2 like it was the only game of the day. The matchup for the nightcap decidedly favored the Tigers, with the defender Cy Young winner facing off against a guy who had spent the last 6 weeks either on the Disabled List or in AAA. But not only did Zach McAllister hold his own, but the Indians got major contributions from several other unexpected sources.
Chris Dickerson, who coming into last night's game had hit a grand total of 17 home runs in 734 career MLB Plate Appearances, hit not one but two home runs off Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, who was a disaster in the rotation before being banished to the bullpen, retired the heart of the Detroit order in a tie game in the eighth. And Roberto Perez, who was making just his second MLB start, hit a ball that clanked off of Austin Jackson's glove to start the three-run 9th inning.
Santana has had a rather poor month of July, so when a wild pitch pushed runners to second and third in the ninth inning of Game 2, the Tigers elected to intentionally walk Michael Brantley to get to Santana with the bases loaded. But Carlos came through, hitting a three-run double (and barely missing a grand slam). It was one of the biggest hits of the year, and hopefully that gets Carlos back on track.
Friday was the deadline for signing 2014 Draft picks, and the Indians ended up signing 30 of their 42 selections, including their first 15 selections. To do this the Indians exceeded their pool limit by $121,200. That means they will subject to a tax (75% on that $121,200), but they will not lose a future draft pick because they exceeded their pool by only 1.47%. Clubs that go over by more than 5% lose their next first round selection.
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With McAllister back in AAA (he was the 26th man allowed to clubs in a scheduled doubleheader), the Indians to back to a 3 starter/10 reliever configuration, which they'll keep through today's game. They will call up a starter (likely Danny Salazar) to pitch on Monday, and will recall TJ House to start Tuesday's game. That setup should last until Justin Masterson comes of the Disabled List.
AL Central News
The Royals haven't taken advantage of Detroit's losing streak, losing again in Boston. Because of that, they now find themselves in third place.
After what happened Friday and yesterday, I would imagine those talks have gotten much more serious.
Josh Willingham and Kurt Suzuki will likely not be Twins on August 1.
With the news that the Astros failed to sign Brady Aiken the 2014 draft's top overall selection, SSS looks back at 1971, when the White Sox failed to sign the top overall selection in that year's draft.
This week's video clip
Santana comes through last night.