AL Central standings (through Sunday, August 24):
With five weeks left in the season, the Royals are closer to a playoff spot than they've been in decades. Meanwhile, the Tigers continue to look shakier and shakier, the Indians remain on the fringe of contention, and the White Sox and Twins fight to avoid last place.
Kansas City Royals (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Royals Review
The Royals began their week with the finale of a 4-game set in Minnesota, and beat the Twins 6-4, as backup catcher Erik Kratz hit two home runs in support of Jason Vargas, who gave up just 1 run in 7 innings.
It was off to Colorado for a quick series after that. KC won the first game 7-4, as James Shields made a solid start and Omar Infante had 4 hits, including 3 doubles. The Royals were ahead 2-1 in the second game, until a throwing error prolonged the bottom of the 6th, and Danny Duffy eventually gave up a grand slam, putting Kansas City behind, which is where they would remain, as the series ended with each team winning one and losing one.
The road trip continued in Texas for three games against the Rangers. Yordano Ventura gave up just 1 run in 6 innings in the opener, and Lorenzo Cain had 3 hits in the 6-3 victory. Saturday brought another 6-3 win, this time with Jeremy Guthrie allowing only 1 run in 8 innings, despite recording only 2 strikeouts. MVP candidate Alex Gordon's 15th home run of the season led the offense. Kansas City was unable to finish off the sweep on Sunday though, because while Jason Vargas danced through a minefield and allowed 3 runs despite giving up 11 hits and 4 walks, KC's offense had only a Billy Butler home run to show for itself, and the Royals lost 3-1.
Detroit Tigers (4-3)
SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys
The Tigers were in Tampa Bay during the week. Tuesday's contest went to extra innings, with Victor Martinez eventually drawing a bases-loaded walk to put Detroit ahead during the 11th inning of an 8-6 win. Martinez then doubled and homered on Wednesday, which was more than enough for Rick Porcello, who pitched a 3-hit shutout, his league-leading third shutout of the season. David Price pitched a 1-hitter in the series finale, but that one hit scored a man who'd reached on an error. Price retired the final 23 batters he faced, but he and the Tigers lost 1-0.
It was off to Minnesota for the weekend, and Friday night saw the Tigers got crushed 20-6. Robbie Ray didn't survive the 2nd inning, and things didn't get much better from there. Infielder Andrew Romine pitched the 8th inning (and gave up 3 runs). Saturday brought a doubleheader, but the first game felt like more of Friday, with Detroit losing 12-4 after Buck Farmer couldn't finish two innings. Justin Verlander (who missed his previous scheduled start) gave up 4 runs in 5.2 innings in Saturday's second game, led by 3-hit games from Torii Hunter and Victor and J.D. Martinez picked him up and got Detroit an 8-6 win. Max Scherzer last only 5 innings Sunday, but Victor Martinez homered, had a pair of singles, and drove in 4 runs in a 13-4 romp as Detroit gained a split series.
Cleveland Indians (4-2)
SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe
The Indians traveled to Minnesota to begin their week and won the first game 7-5, after falling behind 5-0 in the 1st inning. Yan Gomes had 3 hits on the night, including his 17th home run of the season. T.J. House gave the Tribe 5.1 shutout innings Wednesday, and four relievers followed that up with 3.2 scoreless frames, as Cleveland won 5-0, getting home runs from Zach Walters and Mike Aviles along the way. Corey Kluber gave up 3 runs in 7 innings in the series finale, which counts as his worst game in the last two months. A better offense would have picked him up, but the Indians don't have a better offense these days, and lost 4-1, missing out on the chance to sweep. Making matters worse, Yan Gomes suffered a concussion, and would eventually be placed on the 7-day DL.
It was back home to face Houston for the weekend. Friday's game was tied 1-1 heading into the 9th, but the Indians made two errors that inning, and Cody Allen, who's been one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball over the last few months, gave up 4 unearned runs in a 5-1 loss. The Tribe bounced back (barely) on Saturday, as Danny Salazar pitched well and Jose Ramirez won the game with a walk-off single in the 9th. In Sunday's rubber match Trevor Bauer struck out 9 in 6 shutout innings, and the offense, despite another day of struggling, did enough for a 3-1 victory, giving the Tribe a series win and keeping them within 5 games of a playoff spot.
Chicago White Sox (0-6)
SB Nation Site: South Side Sox
The White Sox hosted Baltimore for three games, none of which went well for the home team. Chris Sale gave up a pair of home runs and lasted only 6 innings Monday (still throwing 121 pitches), as the Sox lost 8-2. Jose Abreu hit his 32nd home run of the season Tuesday, but that was about it for Chicago's offense, and they lost 5-1. The pitching was a little better on Wednesday, and the offense was too, but only enough so for the Pale Hose to lose by a closer score. Avisail Garcia (who at one point was thought to be out for the year) homered in the 4-3 loss.
With that it was off to the Bronx for the weekend. Another hoe run by Abreu gave the Sox a 3-0 lead in the 1st inning Friday, but the offense was finished at that point, and with two outs in the 9th inning and the bases loaded, Chicago gave up a single and lost the game. Scott Carroll gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in 6 innings Saturday, and the Sox stranded 8 base runners in another defeat, this time 5-3. Chicago took another lead on Sunday, and Chris Sale was dominating, but a Dayan Viciedo error prolonged the 6th inning and 4 runs eventually came in to score. A home run by Garcia tied the game in the 9th, but reliever Jake Petricka gave up a walk-off blast in the 10th and the Sox were sept again, their sixth straight loss.
Minnesota Twins (3-3)
SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town
The Twins lost 6-4 on Monday against Kansas City (wrapping up a 4-game series), despite home runs by Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe.
Minnesota stayed home to host the Indians next, and the lost the opener 7-5. Arcia homered again, but Kyle Gibson had a rough go of things on the mound. Ricky Nolasco's season-long struggled continued on Wednesday, as he gave up 4 runs in 6.2 innings, which actually counts as a pretty good game for him. The offense couldn't get anything going, and the Twins lost 5-0. Phil Hughes took the mound in the finale, and continued his fine season by striking out 8 in 7 innings, while allowing only 1 run. Kennys Vargas had 3 hits, including a long home run, to power Minnesota to a 4-1 win.
The weekend brought Detroit to town. The Twins romped to a 20-6 win Friday night, with a 9-run 6th inning turning a close game into a laugher. Eduardo Escobar had 5 hits on the night, including a triple and a home run. Escobar had 3 more hits in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, and Minnesota grabbed another easy win, this time 12-4. The night cap didn't go as well, despite 3 hits from Trevor Plouffe, and the Twins lost 8-6. Kyle Gibson and a string of relievers were hit hard on Sunday, and Minnesota fell 13-4, leaving them with a split series after they'd won the first two games by 22 total runs.
Indians: Jason Giambi (DH) is on the 60-day DL with left knee inflammation, he could return in early September; Yan Gomes (C) was placed on the 7-day DL with a concussion, he will be eligible to return on Thursday; David Murphy (OF) is on the 15-day DL with a right abdominal strain, he could return in mid September; Ryan Raburn (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with right wrist soreness, he could return next week; Nick Swisher (DH) had surgery on his knees and is out for the year
Royals: Scott Downs (RP) is on the 15-day DL with neck stiffness, he could return this week; Eric Hosmer (1B) is on the 15-day DL with a fractured right hand, he could return this week
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (1B) is day-to-day with right ankle soreness; Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL and likely out for the year; 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 next week; Anibal Sanchez (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain. he could be return this weekend; Joakim Soria (RP) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return next week, but is reportedly feeling soreness
Twins: Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he is out for the year
White Sox: Adam Eaton (OF) is on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique, he is expected back on Tuesday; Moises Sierra (OF) was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique, he could return next week
Player Power Poll
(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)
5) Alex Gordon (KC) - .281/.356/.449, 126 wRC+ in 509 PA, 15 HR, 29 2B, 67 R
4) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .308/.375/.501, 139 wRC+ in 550 PA, 17 HR, 40 2B, 89 RBI
3) Victor Martinez (DET) - .328/.396/.553, 156 wRC+ in 505 PA, 25 HR, 25 2B, 84 RBI
2) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .311/.369/.497, 146 wRC+ in 536 PA, 18 HR, 32 2B, 15 SB
1) Jose Abreu (CHI) - .308/.366/.598, 161 wRC+ in 495 PA, 33 HR, 29 2B, 94 RBI
The Week Ahead
Indians: 3 @ White Sox, 3 @ Royals
Royals: 1 vs. Yankees, 3 vs. Twins, 3 vs. Indians
Tigers: 3 vs. Yankees, 4 @ White Sox
Twins: 3 @ Royals, 3 @ Orioles
White Sox: 3 vs. Indians, 4 vs. Tigers