AL Central standings (through Sunday, August 10):
Kansas City had an incredible week, while Detroit stumbled and suffered big injuries, and suddenly the AL Central has the closest race of any division in baseball, while Cleveland also keeps itself on the outer edge of playoff contention.
Detroit Tigers (2-5)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers were in New York during the week. Max Scherzer gave up only 2 runs in 7 innings in the opener, but because Detroit's offense didn't show, he took his first loss since mid June. David Price struck out 10 over 8.2 innings in his Tigers debut, and an Alex Avila homer in the 10th innings helped Detroit to a 4-3 win. Justin Verlander shared Scherzer's tough-luck-loss mojo on Wednesday, giving up 2 in 7 innings, but watching the offense do little to help in a 5-1 defeat. Rick Porcello topped his teammates by taking a loss on Thursday, despite giving up only 1 run in 7 innings, as Detroit fell 1-0.
The road trip continued in Toronto. Detroit won 5-4 Friday night, after Nick Castellanos tied the game with a home in the 9th, and Eugenio Suarez put the Tigers ahead immediately afterwards. It was a very costly win though, as Anibal Sanchez exited early and had to be placed on the DL. He's expected to miss three weeks. Scherzer struck out 11 in 8 shutout innings Saturday, but Joe Nathan blew another save. Making matters worse, Joakim Soria, who may have been named the team's new closer, left the game with a strained oblique, and was placed on the DL. Detroit blew another 9th inning lead Sunday (this time it was Joba Chamberlain), and the game ended up going 19 innings, with the Tigers losing when Porcello allowed a run in his second inning of emergency relief work.
Random Stat of the Week: Victor Martinez has 23 HR, and is striking out in only 7.8 of his plate appearances. No American League player in the 2000s has hit that many homers with such a low strikeout rate.
Kansas City Royals (6-0)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals wrapped up a road trip with three games in Arizona. KC put up 12 runs on 15 hits in the opener, including home runs by Salvador Perez, Billy Butler, and Norichika Aoki. Yordano Ventura struck out 8 in 6 innings Wednesday, and Mike Moustakas drove in all four runs in a 4-3 win. Alex Gordon homered in the finale, and Jeremy Guthrie gave up only 2 runs while pitching a complete game. The sweep allowed Kansas City to take over 1st place in the chase for the second Wild Card spot.
The Royals then returned home to host San Francisco. Butler homered again, and he and Omar Infante each had a pair of hits in a 4-2 win Friday, with KC's strong bullpen providing 4 shutout innings. James Shields was steller on Saturday, delivering a four-hit shutout (his first for the Royals) and lowering his ERA to 3.25 for the season. Gordon homered again in the victory. Then Gordon hit his third home run of the week on Sunday, and Perez added another one too. Kansas City won 7-4, giving them a perfect 6-0 week and a 7-game winning streak that's not only given them control of a Wild Card spot, it's moved them within half a game of Detroit.
Random Stat of the Week: Kansas City has hit a few more home runs of late but still have only 71, fewest in MLB, and are on pac for 99 of them, which would make them the first AL team in 20 years to fall short of 100.
Cleveland Indians (3-4)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians had a home-and-home four-game set with the Reds during the week, with the first two in Cleveland. Corey Kluber gave up 1 run in 7 innings, and Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes each homered in a 7-1 win. The offense went quiet Wednesday, and Josh Tomlin didn't survive the 5th inning of a 9-2 loss, and was moved to the bullpen after the game. Danny Salazar pitched only 4 innings Wednesday, and while Gomes homered again, the Tribe lost 8-3. Then the Indians were shutout on Thursday, getting a man beyond first base only three times all game.
It was off to the Bronx for the weekend. The Tribe's pitching struggles continued in the opener, with Trevor Bauer and bad defense combining to put them in a 5-1 hole in the 1st inning, which they never got out of, despite 3 hits by Carlos Santana. Klyber was there to save the Indians Saturday, striking out 10 in 6 shutout innings. The 3-0 win also featured the first home run of Jose Ramirez's career, and Michael Brantley's 17th homer of the season. Carlos Carrasco made his first start in April, after spending 3.5 months as a successful reliever, and pitched 5 shutout innings, giving Cleveland a much-needed boost. Jason Kipnis had 3 hits and scored 3 runs in a 4-1 victory.
Random Stat of the Week: Carlos Santana is batting only .229, but leads MLB with 82 walks and a walk rate of 17.4%, making him among the 15 best hitters in the AL this season, despite the low batting average.
Chicago White Sox (2-5)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox began their week by hosting Texas, and won the first game (a rain-shortened affair) 5-3, with Tuler Flowers coming a double short of hitting for the cycle, and also driving in 3 runs. Tuesday was a different story, with Sox fans wishing rain would come and wash away the game. John Danks gave up 9 runs before exiting in the 5th, and the bullpen wasn't any better. Chicago lost 16-0, their most lopsided defeat since a 19-0 beating back in 2002. Chris Sale gave up 2 runs in 6 innings in the rubber match, but the offense still hadn't recovered, and the Pale Hose fell 3-1.
Next up were four games in Seattle. On Thursday Dayan Viciedo hit his 15th homer of the season, but it was otherwise another ugly loss, this time 13-3, with Scott Carroll allowing 7 of the runs. Viciedo homered again Friday, but again had little help from anyone else in the lineup, as Chicago lost 4-1. Hector Noesi allowed only an unearned run in 7.1 innings Saturday, and while the offense was weak again, the Sox tied the game on an Alexei Ramirez double in the 7th, then took the lead on a Conor Gillaspie single in the 10th, and won 2-1. Sunday brought a ho-hum 4-2 defeat. Chicago was outscored 44 to 14 for the week.
Random Stat of the Week: Adam Eaton leads the AL with a .366 BABIP; Conor Gillaspie ranks 3rd, at .360. They could become the first White Sox teammates with a BABIP of .350 or better since Eddie Collins and Johnny Mostil in 1926.
Minnesota Twins (2-4)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins had a quick two-game set with San Diego during the week. Phil Hughes struck out 9 in 6 innings in the first game, and Kennys Vargas' first career home run plated all three runs in a 3-1 win for Minnesota. Trevor Plouffe homered on Wednesday, and the Twins were ahead in the 9th, but Glen Perkins blew the save and Minnesota then lost in the 10th.
Four games in Oakland came next. The Twins were shut out by Jon Lester on Thursday, managing only 3 singles and 2 walks all game. Kyle Gibson put Minnesota in 6-0 hole before being pulled in the 6th inning on Friday. A rally in the 7th pulled the Twins within one run, but they couldn't complete the comeback. Trevor May made his MLB debut Saturday, but was knocked out after allowing 4 runs in 2 innings. Given that he walked 7 batters (!), he's lucky it wasn't worse. The Twins lost 9-4. The last player to walk 7+ in their ML debut while lasting fewer than 3 innings was Steve Adkins in 1990. Another good game from Phil Hughes and home runs by Brian Dozier and Josh Willingham allowed Minnesota to avoid being swept with a 6-1 win on Sunday.
Random Stat of the Week: Minnesota has grounded into only 70 double plays all season (the other four teams in the division are all somewhere between 96 and 99 GIDP right now), an average of .060 per game, which would be the second-lowest figure in franchise history, behind only the 1965 team.
Indians: Michael Bourn (OF) is on the 15-day DL with a left hamstring strain, he is expected to return this week; Jason Giambi (DH) is on the 60-day DL with left knee inflammation, he probably won't be back til rosters expand in September; David Murphy (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a right abdominal strain, he will have an MRI this week; Nick Swisher (DH) was placed on the 15-day DL with right knee soreness, he will have an MRI this week
Royals: Eric Hosmer (1B) was placed on the 15-day DL with a fractured right hand, he will be out at least a couple more weeks
Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return next week; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the 60-day DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, his return this season is in doubt; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation, he could return in September; Anibal Sanchez (SP) was placed on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain. he is expected to miss another 3 weeks; Joakim Soria (RP) was placed on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return in late August
Twins: Joe Mauer (1B) is on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain, he is expected back in the next day or two; Ricky Nolasco (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a right elbow strain, he could return this week; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he could return in September
White Sox: Adam Eaton (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique, he could return in late August; Avisail Garcia (OF) is on the 60-day DL while recovering from shoulder surgery, once thought to be out for the year, he could return in August; Nate Jones (RP) underwent Tommy John surgery, and is out for the year; Matt Lindstrom (RP) is on the 15-day DL with a left ankle tendon injury, he could return this week
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Carlos Santana (CLE) - .229/.367/.429, 130 wRC+ in 471 PA, 88 H, 82 BB, 20 HR, 56 RBI
4) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .304/.364/.508, 137 wRC+ in 492 PA, 133 H, 36 2B, 71 R, 84 RBI
3) Victor Martinez (DET) - .321/.386/.556, 152 wRC+ in 443 PA, 126 H, 23 2B, 23 HR, 68 RBI
2) Jose Abreu (CHI) - .304/.362/.610, 162 wRC+ in 448 PA, 123 H, 29 2B, 31 HR, 86 RBI
1) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .324/.384/.518, 155 wRC+ in 495 PA, 144 H, 31 2B, 77 R, 76 RBI
The Week Ahead
Indians: 2 vs. Diamondbacks, 3 vs. Orioles
Royals: 4 vs. Athletics, 4 @ Twins (ending Monday)
Tigers: 2 @ Pirates, 2 vs. Pirates, 3 vs. Mariners
Twins: 3 @ Astros, 4 vs. Royals (ending Monday)
White Sox: 2 @ Giants, 3 vs. Blue Jays