AL Central standings (through Sunday, August 17):
Kansas City continues to play really well, and find itself in first place with six weeks left in the season, the latest they've been atop the standings since 2003.
Kansas City Royals (5-2)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals had a big day Monday. First they acquired Josh Willingham from Minnesota to shore up their offense, then they won their series opener at home against Oakland, which was their 8th win in a row, and moved them into 1st place. Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen were both hit hard on Tuesday, as KC lost 11-3, but the rebounded on Wednesday, winning 3-0 after Omar Infante homered and Jason Vargas pitched the Royals' first Maddux since Jeff Suppan in 2002. James Shields made a quality start in Thursday's finale, and the Kansas City offense scored 7 runs on 12 hits to give the team a 7-3 win, and an impressive series win over what has been baseball's best team this season.
The Royals then traveled to Minnesota for the weekend. Friday night Willingham celebrated his return to the Twin Cities by hitting a bases-clearing double that put Kansas City ahead. They held on for a 6-5 win. Yordano Ventura was not sharp on Saturday, and the Royals couldn't get anything going on offense, leading to a 4-1 defeat. The lineup woke back up on Sunday though, as Willingham, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez each homered, part of a 13-hit attack in a 12-6 win. The Royals will wrap up the series with a fourth game on Monday.
Detroit Tigers (3-4)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers had four games against the Pirates during the week, a pair in each city. The first two were in Pittsburgh, and they did not go well. Justin Verlander lasted only 1 inning on Monday, exited with shoulder soreness after giving up 5 runs in what would become an 11-6 loss. Robbie Ray gave up 4 runs in 5 innings Tuesday, and the offense couldn't overcome that, losing 4-2. The Tigers returned home Wednesday and won 8-4, as Alex Avila homered for the second day in a row; Nick Castellanos homered as well, and Victor Martinez had 3 hits. Max Scherzer struck out a season-high 14 in 8 shutout innings Thursday, and the bullpen couldn't blow the lead, as Detroit won 5-2.
The weekend brought Seattle to town. Rick Porcello gave up 6 run on 10 hits Friday, and while Miguel Cabrera had a pair of doubles, they weren't nearly enough, as the Tigers fell 7-2. Cabrera doubled again on Saturday, giving him a league-leading 40 of them, and David Price allowed only 1 run in 8 innings, as Detroit won 4-2 to knot the series. Ray struggled again in Sunday's finale, and the Tigers made 3 errors, making matters worse. It hardly mattered though, as the lineup was stymied all afternoon. Detroit lost 8-1 and if the season ended Sunday night, they'd miss the playoffs.
Cleveland Indians (3-2)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians hosted Arizona for a short two-game set, which rain turned into a Wednesday doubleheader. Trevor Bauer made maybe the best start of his career in the first game, going 8 innings for the first time, and allowing only 2 runs. The game was tied in the 9th, until Zach Walters hit a walk-off home run for the Tribe. Josh Tomlin pitched 5.1 shutout frames in the second game, but the Indians stranded 10 runners and the game was still tied at zero in the 12th inning, when Cleveland's sixth reliever of the game finally allowed a run, sending the Indians to a 1-0 loss.
Next into town were the AL East leading Orioles. Corey Kluber struck out 10 and gave up only 1 run in 7.2 innings Friday, but a lack of offense meant the Tribe would head to extra innings again. This time it was Mike Aviles who hit a walk-off blast, giving Cleveland a 2-1 win in 11 innings. Carlos Carrasco, recently given another shot at the starting rotation after more than three months in the bullpen, tossed 7 shutout innings Saturday, and for the only time all week, the offense did well for itself, with Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley both homering in a 6-0 victory. Danny Salazar started Sunday's game with 5 shutout innings, but put the first two men on base in the 6th, and they both came around to score. The Indians collected only 2 hits all game, and lost 4-1.
Chicago White Sox (3-2)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox wrapped up a west coast road trip with two games in San Francisco. Chris Sale struck out 12 in 8 shutout innings in the first of those games. Chicago blew their 2-0 lead in the 9th, but bounced back to win in the 10th after Gordon Beckham plated a run with an RBI single. Adam Dunn homered for the second day in a row on Wednesday, but that one run was all the Sox could manage, and they lost 7-1 after Jose Quintana was not as sharp as he's usually been this season.
The Pale Hose returned home to host Toronto for the weekend. Dunn and Jose Abreu each had 3 hits in the opener, and the bullpen delivered four shutout innings in an 11-5 win. Chicago faced their former ace Mark Buehrle on Saturday, and the game was tied through 6 innings, but Matt Lindstrom, making only his second appearance after three months on the DL, gave up 3 runs in the 7th, and the Sox lost 6-3. A grand slam by Conor Gillaspie and a two-run shot by Jordan Danks gave Chicago a 6-1 lead in the 1st inning on Sunday, and they held on for a 7-5 win to take the series.
Minnesota Twins (3-3)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins were in Houston to start their week, and on Monday they got Joe Mauer back after 34 games. The recently acquired Tommy Milone kept Minnesota in the game by giving up just 2 runs in 6 inning, and in the 9th inning Mauer drove in 2 runs with a single, providing the margin in a 4-2 win. Oswaldo Arcia homered twice on Tuesday, but Yohan Pino was shelled for 7 runs in 4-1 innings and the Twins lost 10-4. Mauer homered in Wednesday's rubber match, and Kyle Gibson pitched 7.2 strong innings in a 3-1 win.
The Twins returned home to host Kansas City. Ricky Nolasco returned from the DL Friday night and picked up right where he left off, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings, as Minnesota lost 6-5, despite 3 hits from Kurk Suzuki. On Saturday Phil Hughes continued to be a far better signing than Nolasco, giving up just 1 run in 7.1 innings. Suzuki had 2 more hits, including his 3rd home run of the season, and the Twins won 4-1. Milone didn't survive the 2nd inning Sunday, and gave up 7 runs. Mauer, Arcia, and Kennys Vargas all homered for Minnesota, but they still lost 12-6. The series concludes on Monday.
Indians: 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) is on the 15-day DL with a right abdominal strain, he could return in mid September; Nick Swisher (DH) is on the 15-day DL with right knee soreness, a possible return date is TBD
Royals: Scott Downs (RP) was placed on the 15-day DL with neck stiffness, he could return in late Augustl Eric Hosmer (1B) is on the 15-day DL with a fractured right hand, he could return in late August
Tigers: Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL recovering from back surgery, he could return in September; 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) is on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain. he could be back in late August; Joakim Soria (RP) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return in late August; Justin Verlander (SP) missed a start with right shoulder inflammation, he could return this weekend
Twins: Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he could return in September
White Sox: Adam Eaton (OF) is on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique, he could return in late August; Moises Sierra (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique, he could return in late August
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Phil Hughes (MIN) - 158.0 IP, 3.76 ERA, 104 ERA+, 2.61 FIP, 8.0 K/9, 0.9 BB/9
4) Jose Quintana (CHI) - 154.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 126 ERA+, 2.88 FIP 7.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
3) Chris Sale (CHI) - 130. 0 IP, 2.01 ERA, 197 ERA+, 2.27 FIP, 10.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9
2) Max Scherzer (DET) - 169.0 IP, 2.98 ERA, 139 ERA+, 2.76 FIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
1) Corey Kluber (CLE) - 179.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 155 ERA+ 2.38 FIP, 9.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 @ Twins, 3 vs. Astros
Royals: 1 @ Twins, 2 @ Rockies, 3 @ Rangers
Tigers: 3 @ Rays, 4 @ Twins
Twins: 1 vs. Royals, 3 vs. Indians, 4 vs. Tigers
White Sox: 3 vs. Orioles, 3 @ Yankees