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AL Central race down to Tigers and Royals

Do I bother with all five teams at this point, or just the two?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


AL Central standings (through Sunday, Sept. 14):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Tigers 83 66 - 703 648 +55
Royals 81 67 1.5 593 573 +20
Indians 76 72 6.5 623 617 +6
White Sox 68 81 15 614 703 -89
Twins 63 86 20 652 720 -68

The Tigers took care of business this week and find themselves back atop the division with two weeks left to go. The Royals are still very much alive for the division though, and currently hold the second Wild Card spot. I'd say the Indians have joined the White Sox and Twins in the "maybe next year" club.

Detroit Tigers (5-1)

SB Nation Site: Bless You Boys

The Tigers hosted Kansas City to begin the week, a team most fans were surprised to see 2 games ahead of Detroit at this stage of the season. Justin Verlander wasn't great, but he went 7 innings in the opener, and after the Tigers put up 6 runs in the 3rd inning, decent pitching was all they needed for a 9-5 win. Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez each homered on Tuesday, and Max Scherzer gave up just 1 run in 6.2 innings as the Tigers won again. Rick Porcello gave up only 2 runs in 7 innings in the series finale, but even one was too many, as Detroit's bats were silenced and they lost 3-0, missing out on a chance to sweep.

The weekend brought Cleveland to town. David Price gave up only 1 run in 7.2 innings Friday, and J.D. Martinez led the offense with a triple and a home run as Detroit won 7-2, moving back into 1st placea few minutes later, when Kansas City lost their game. Victor Martinez homered to put the Tigers ahead on Saturday, but they lost that lead and trailed again with two outs in the 8th inning, until Alex Avila put them ahead again with a 2-run homer. Torii Hunter also made an incredible catch in right field, and Detroit won 5-4. J.D. homered again on Sunday, but the Tigers again found themselves down late. This time it was Ian Kinsler who hit a two-run shot to put them ahead, and they went on to win 6-4, sweeping the Indians out of contention.

Kansas City Royals (2-5)

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

The Royals went to Detroit during the week with a chance to give themselves a commanding lead in the Central with a strong showing. Jeremy Guthrie gave up 8 runs (6 earned) in 2.2 innings on Monday though, as they fell 9-5. Jason Vargas was better than that on Tuesday, but not great, and after Kansas City left 11 men on base, they were defeated again, this time 4-2, putting the two teams into a tie for 1st place. The Royals rebounded in the series finale though, getting 7 shutout innings from James Shields (in some ways the face of the franchise, given that KC gave up its top prospect to acquire him for these last two years), and winning 3-0, putting them back atop the standings.

It was back home after that to host Boston, baseball's biggest disappointment this season. Liam Hendriks didn't survive the 3rd inning of the opener though, and the Royals (who have one of the best defensive units in the game) uncharacteristically made 3 errors, and lost 6-4. Eric Hosmer took a break from his disappointing season to hit his 7th home run Friday, but it wasn't enough to keep Kansas City from losing again, and falling into 2nd place. On Saturday Mike Moustakas made an error for the third game in a row (speaking of disappointing seasons), but Jeremy Guthrie was excellent, allowing only that unearned run in 8 innings. Omar Infante had 3 hits in the 7-1 win. Hosmer homered again Sunday, and KC led 4-3 in the 6th, but with two men on base manager Ned Yost went with Aaron Crow instead of one of his 3 or 4 best relievers, because he doesn't seem to understand that he's allowed to bring those top guys in before the 7th inning. Crow gave up a grand slam, the Royals lost 8-4, wrapping up an awful week.

Cleveland Indians (2-5)

SB Nation Site: Let's Go Tribe

The Indians lost their first two games of the week, then took both games of a doubleheader against Minnesota on Thursday (with Corey Kluber and T.J. House each pitching a great game), keeping themselves in contention as they headed to Detroit for the weekend. Then they got swept, with Bryan Shaw (who's been really good this year) giving up two-run homers on Saturday and Sunday, each of which turned a late lead into a deficit, breaking the Tribe's back in the process.

Chicago White Sox (5-2)

SB Nation Site: South Side Sox

The White Sox made almost certain they won't finish in last place for the second year in a row by putting together their strong week in quite some time, starting by taking 3 of 4 from Oakland (with each of the 3 wins coming by one run) and then taking 2 of 3 against Minnesota, their would-be competition for 4th place. Jose Abreu tied the franchise rookie record with his 35th home run, while Chris Sale reached 162 innings (163 actually), while lowering his ERA to an AL-best 1.99, putting him in position to become only the fourth qualified AL pitcher to post an ERA below 2.00 since the DH was implemented in 1973. (Ron Guidry, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez are the others.)

Minnesota Twins (2-4)

SB Nation Site: Twinkie Town

The Twins played a doubleheader on Thursday and another on Saturday, losing all four of those games. That made for a long three days, I imagine. They did win Tuesday and Sunday's game, so the week wasn't a total loss. Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe each homered twice during the week, but there wasn't much else to get excited about, as the team is all but assured of its fourth consecutive season with 90+ losses, after posting nine winning seasons in the previous decade, and losing only 83 games in their lone losing season during that time.

Injuries

Indians: Ryan Raburn (OF) is out with a hyperextended left knee and may be done for the year; Nick Swisher (DH) had surgery on his knees and is out for the year

Royals: Christian Colon (2B) is out with a fractured finger, a possible return date is unknown; Danny Duffy (SP) was pulled after throwing just one pitch Saturday, due to shoulder soreness, his status is TDB; Josh Willingham (OF) is day-today with strained groin, but he is expected back any day

Tigers: Alex Avila (C) exited Sunday's game due to lightheadedness, his status going forward is TBD; Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL and likely out for the year; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is out for the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery; Luke Putkonen (RP) is out for the year with right elbow inflammation; Anibal Sanchez (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain., he could return next week; Drew VerHagen is out for the year with a stress reaction in his spine

Twins: Tommy Milone (SP) is out with neck soreness and shoulder fatigue, he could return next week

White Sox: Paul Konerko (1B) is out with a fractured bone in his hand, he could return this week

Player Power Poll

(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)

Pitchers

5) Jose Quintana (CHI) 185.2 IP, 3.30 ER, 118 ERA+, 2.78 FIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9

4) Phil Hughes (MIN) 194.2 IP, 3.56 ERA, 111 ERA+, 2.54 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 0.7 BB/9

3) Max Scherzer (DET) 200.1 IP, 3.19 ERA, 125 ERA+, 2.84 FIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

2) Chris Sale (CHI) 163.0 IP, 1.99 ERA, 195 ERA+, 2.45 FIP 10.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

1) Corey Kluber (CLE) 212.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 150 ERA+, 2.55 FIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

The Week Ahead

Indians: 4 @ Astros, 3 @ Twins

Royals: 3 vs. White Sox, 3 vs. Tigers

Tigers: 3 @ Twins, 3 @ Royals

Twins: 3 vs. Tigers, 3 vs. Indians

White Sox: 3 @ Royals, 3 @ Rays