AL Central standings (through Sunday, July 6):
The Tigers had another winning week, while the division's bottom couple teams are at risk of falling out of the race completely. Here's a recap of each AL Central team's action from last week:
Detroit Tigers (4-3)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers hosted Oakland (who's got the best record in baseball this season) for three games to start off their week. Miguel Cabrera homered in the 6th, but Detroit was behind 4-1 with one out in the 9th, when Rajai David hit a walk-off grand slam. Things got even better from there, as Rick Porcello pitched a Maddux on Tuesday, and the first ever to feature 0 walks and 0 strikeouts at that. Justin Verlander wasn't as sharp as that in the series finale, but he made a quality start and both Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter had 3 hits in what turned into a 9-3 laugher, giving the Tigers a very impressive sweep.
Next into town were the Rays. Max Scherzer gave up just 1 run in 8 innings Thursday, while Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, and Torii Hunter all homered in an 8-1 win. Drew Smyly didn't pitch so well Friday, nor was the offense so potent, and Detroit fell 6-3. Making matters worse, Victor Martinez left the game with pain in his back, and has not played since. Anibal Sanchez was rocked for 7 runs in 5.1 innings Saturday, all after he began the game with 4 no-hit innings, and the Tigers lost again, this time 6-3. Sunday it was Porcello's turn to allow 7 runs, and Detroit's losing streak was extended to 3 games.
Random Stat of the Week: Miguel Cabrera has a league-leading 32 doubles already, putting him on pace for 61 of them. NO MLB player has had 60+ doubles in a season since 1936, when Joe Medwick (64) and Charlier Gehringer (60) did it.
Kansas City Royals (3-3)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals began their week in Minnesota and picked up a 6-1 win in the opener as Salvador Perez hit his 10th home run of the season, Alcides Escobar drove in 4 runs, and the bullpen delivered 3.1 shutout innings. Tuesday was a different story: James Shields struggled, Alex Gordon made his first error of the season, and the offense managed only 2 runs (though Eric Hosmer did have 4 hits). KC took the rubber match 4-0, getting 7 shutout frames from Jason Vargas and a home run by the newly reacquired Raul Ibanez, 42 years young.
The road trip continued in Cleveland. On Friday Yordano Ventura took a shutout into the 9th inning, ultimately allowing 1 run in 8.1 innings. Mike Moustakas' 9th home run of the season led the offense in a 7-1 win. Jeremy Guthrie gave up 6 runs on 11 hits over 4+ innings Saturday, and 3 hits from Danny Valencia weren't enough to stave off a 7-3 defeat. Moustakas homered again on Sunday, but the offense was otherwise silenced, with only two other batters getting as far as second base all afternoon, and Kansas City lost 4-1, dropping them 4 games out of 1st place only a week and a half after they briefly held the top spot.
Random Stat of the Week: Mike Moustakas is having a bad year, batting just .195/.259/.385, with a wRC+ of 75, among the worst in the league among regulars. Against the Indians though, he's hit like an MVP, with a line of .345/.387/.931, with 5 home runs in just 29 at bats.
Cleveland Indians (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians finished up a West Coast road trip with three games at Dodger Stadium. On Monday Corey Kluber gave up just 1 run in 6.2 innings, but they lost 4-0 and became the first team since the Dead Ball Era to be shut out and held to one hit in back-to-back games. Good times! The bats woke up on Tuesday though, scoring 10 runs on 13 hits, including 3 by David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall's 9th home run of the season, and evened up the series. Justin Masterson was pulled with 0 outs in the 4th though, and it sure seems like a DL stint would do him good. The Tribe fell behind 3-2 in the finale, but an 8th-inning rally put them back ahead, and Cody Allen got the final four outs for his 9th save.
On the 4th of July, the Royals came to town and crushed the home team 7-1, with only a Michael Brantley home run keeping the Tribe from being shut out. The Indians fought back to even the series on Saturday though, getting a decent start from rookie T.J. House as well as 3 hits from Brantley and Michael Bourn's 3rd home run of the year. Bourn injured his hamstring while scoring a run in the 8th though, and landed on the DL. On Sunday, Kluber continued his fantastic first half (How often does the guy with the second-best FIP in the league not make the All-Star team?) with 10 Ks and only 1 run allowed in 8.1 innings. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes homered in the 4-1 win.
Random Stat of the Week: With one scheduled start still to come before the All-Star break, Corey Kluber already has 137 strikeouts, the most by an Indians starter in the first half since Gaylord Perry whiffed 140 in 1974.
Chicago White Sox (3-3)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox hosted the Angels during the week, and heavy rain Monday lead to a double header on Tuesday. The Sox lost the opener that day, despite Jose Abreu hitting his 26th home run of the season. Hector Noesi gave up 5 runs in 5 innings, and continued to look like he's not ready to work in an MLB rotation. Scott Carroll gave the same impression in the nightcap, allowing 7 runs in 6 innings as the Pale Hose fell 7-5. John Danks struck out 10 in 7 innings Wednesday, allowing 2 runs and helping Chicago avoid being swept. The 3-2 win also featured a pair of hits by Gordon Beckham and a two-run single by Alexei Ramirez.
The weekend brought the Mariners to town, and the White Sox rolled to a 7-1 win Friday, powered by a complete game from Chris Sale (with 12 strikeouts) and another home run by Abreu (his MLB-leading 27th of the season). Jose Quintana struck out 10 in 7.2 shutout innings Saturday, and Chicago led 2-0 heading into the 9th, but the bullpen blew the lead and they lost in 14 innings. Noesi kept the string of strong starts going with one of the best games of his career, 6.2 shutout innings. The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the 1st on a bases-loaded walk by Adam Dunn; that run proved to be the only one they'd get, but also the only one they'd need, as they took the series with a 1-0 win.
Random Stat of the Week: Jose Abreu's 27 home runs put him on pace for 49 of them, which would tie Mark McGwire's rookie record (set in 1987). No other record in MLB history has ever hit more than 38, so if Abreu stays healthy he should finish no worse than 2nd on that list.
Rookie HR record
Minnesota Twins (2-5)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins hosted Kansas City during the week, dropping the series opener 6-1 after leaving 11 men on base. Minnesota bounced back for a big 10-2 win in the next game, when Ricky Nolasco gave up only 1 run in 6 innings and Kendrys Morales and Eduardo Nunez each provided 3 hits (including a home run by Nunez). Putting a damper on things was an oblique injury suffered by Joe Mauer, who was later placed on the 15-day DL. The Twins managed only 4 hits in Wednesday's finale (all of them singles) and lost 4-0.
Next up were four games against the Yankees. Minnesota dropped the opener 7-4, with Phil Hughes giving up all of those runs. The Twins did become the first MLB team to score four runs off Masahiro Tanaka though, so they've got that going for them. Kyle Gibson lasted only 2 innings Friday, leading to another loss, despite home runs by Brian Dozier and Chris Colabello. Josh Willingham tied Saturday's game at one with a solo shot in the 7th inning, and then scored the game-winner in the 11th on a throwing error by New York catcher Francisco Cervelli. Nolasco turned back into a pumpkin, giving up 6 runs in just 2 innings. Minnesota fell behind 9-0, then mounted a rally, but it fell short and they lost 9-7.
Random Stat of the Week: Ricky Nolasco is currently sporting a 5.90 ERA, which is not only the worst by any qualified starter this season, it would be the worst by any qualified starter this decade.
Indians: Michael Bourn (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a left hamstring strain, a possible return date is TBD; Jason Giambi (DH) is on the 15-day DL with knee with left knee inflammation, he's probably as capable of playing as he's going to get, but the Indians have better uses for that roster spot; Nyjer Morgan (OF) is on the 60-day DL with a sprained right knee, he could return after the All-Star break
Royals: Norichika Aoki (OF) is on the 15-day DL witha strained groin, he is expected back after the All-Star break
Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return next week; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, he could join the team next week; Victor Martinez (DH) is day-to-day with a sore back and has not played since Friday; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation, and underwent surgery on Friday, he could return in late August
Twins: Joe Mauer was placed on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain, he could return next week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he could return in September; Danny Santana (SS) is on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise in his left knee, he could return next week
White Sox: Nate Jones (RP) is on the 60-day DL recovering from back surgery, he could return in late July; Matt Lindstrom is on the 15-day DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return in August; Felipe Paulino (SP) is on the 15-day DL with right rotator cuff soreness, a possible return date is TBD
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Anibal Sanchez - 3.18 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 131 ERA+, 6.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 in 87.2 IP
4) Jose Quintana - 3.20 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 126 ERA+, 8.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 in 112.1 IP
3) Max Scherzer - 3.47 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 120 ERA+, 10.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in 119.1 IP
2) Chris Sale - 2.16 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 187 ERA+, 9.9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 in 87.1 IP
1) Corey Kluber - 2.86 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 133 ERA+, 9.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 in 125.2 IP
Notably, neither of the two best pitchers in the division so far this season were named to the American League All-Star team.
The Week Ahead
Indians: 4 vs. Yankees, 3 vs. White Sox
Royals: 3 @ Rays, 4 vs. Tigers
Tigers: 2 vs. Dodgers, 4 @ Royals
Twins: 4 @ Mariners, 3 @ Rockies
White Sox: 4 @ Red Sox, 3 @ Indians