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Royals lead grows while Tigers and Indians remain in AL Central hunt

A look at last week's action around the AL Central, with recaps, top players, key injuries, and more...

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


AL Central standings (through Sunday, Sept. 7):

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Royals 79 62 - 567 541 +26
Tigers 78 65 2 672 628 +44
Indians 74 67 5 597 581 +16
White Sox 63 79 16.5 588 674 -86
Twins 61 82 19 633 691 -58

The Royals added to their advantage with a great week, and has a major showdown series with the Tigers in Detroit this week, which could see them build a nearly insurmountable lead, or could see their lead vanish entirely. The Indians remain on the outer fringe of contention, but would need to win just about every series they have left this season.

Kansas City Royals (5-1)

SB Nation Site: Royals Review

The Royals started their week at home against MLB's worst team, the Rangers, and took advantage. A double and a home run by Salvador Perez helped them build an early lead in the opener, and they held on for a 4-3 win, with Greg Holland picking up his 41st save of the season. KC hit 6 doubles on Tuesday, and while those hits only led to 2 runs, that proved to be enough, as Jeremy Guthrie allowed only 1 run in 7 frames, and the Royals won 2-1. Jason Vargas pitched 6.2 shutout innings in the finale and Alex Gordon hit his 19th home run of the season as Kansas City won 4-1 to sweep the series.

It was then off to the Bronx for the weekend. Nori Aoki singled in an early run Friday night, James Shields pitched 8.1 shutout innings, and Wade Davis picked up his first save of the year as KC won 1-0. Danny Duffy, among the league leaders in ERA, left after just one pitch Saturday, due to soreness in his shoulder. The Royals wound up losing 6-2, and await word on Duffy's status. Yordano Ventura got Kansas City back on track with 6 shutout frames in Sunday's rubber match, and while the offense didn't do much, it didn't matter, as they won 2-0 and moved to 17 games above .500.

Detroit Tigers (4-3)

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The Tigers traveled to Cleveland to start their week. David Price rebounded from the worst start of his career to strike out 8 while allowing only 1 run in 7 innings Monday. Miguel Cabrera hit 2 of Detroit's 5 home runs in a 12-1 romp. They trailed the next game 2-1 heading into the 9th, but J.D. Martinez hit a 3-run blast to propel the Tigers to victory. Justin Verlander struggled Wednesday, and the lineup did too, leaving Detroit with a 7-0 loss. The Tigers took an early 4-0 lead in the series finale, but squandered it, sending the game to extras. Detroit sent 11 men to the plate in the 10th, scoring 7 runs (with a home run by Victor Martinez highlighting things) and winning 11-4.

It was back home to face San Francisco next. Rick Porcello lasted only 3 innings Friday night and the Tigers lost 8-2. Price then gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning Saturday afternoon, and though he recovered to strike out 11 in 8.2 innings, Cabrera homered twice again, and Victor Martinez hit his 30th of the season, Detroit still lost 5-4. Sunday night Kyle Lobstein took the mound and did what Porcello and Price had not been able to, limiting the Giants to only 1 run in 5.2 innings. Cabrera homered yet again, and in the 7th inning he hit a single to give him 100 RBI for the 11th consecutive season, a streak best by only Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Alex Rodriguez (13 years each) and matched by Al Simmons. Detroit won 6-1.

Cleveland Indians (4-3)

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The Indians hosted Detroit for four games and lost the opener 12-1 after Corey Kluber lasted only 2.2 innings and a string of relievers did little better. After Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 in 5.1 innings Tuesday, Carlos Santana's 1st-inning home run looked like it might be enough, but Cody Allen allowed a 3-run blast in the 9th inning and the Tribe fell 4-2. Danny Salazar pitched the best game of his career Wednesday night, picking up his first complete game and his first shutout. 3 hits by Jose Ramirez and a home run by Santana paced the offense in the 7-0 win. Trevor Bauer gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning Thursday, then settled in, and the Tribe came back to send the game to extras, but they gave up 7 runs in the 10th and lost 11-4, putting their playoff hopes back on life support.

The weekend brought the White Sox to town. T.J. House allowed only 1 run in 7 innings in the opener, but the offense didn't get much going and so the game was tied 1-1 in the 10th when David Murphy came up for his first at bat since returning from the DL and hit a walk-off single. Kluber bounced back from Monday's mess and pitched his third complete game of the season Saturday, missing a shutout only because of an unearned run. Santana's third home run of the week (and 25th of the year) supplied the first of three Tribe runs in a 3-1 victory. Carrasco pitched the best game of his career Sunday, just missing his first ever complete game, but throwing 8.2 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts. It's not often a team can sweep a three-game series while scoring only 7 runs, but the Indians did it.

Chicago White Sox (1-4)

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The White Sox were in Minnesota for two games during the week. In the first one Hector Noesi pitched 7 solid innings, but the game went to a 10th, which is when Dayan Viciedo homered to put Chicago ahead, followed shortly by Tyler Flowers' second homer of the game, which provided the final runs in a 6-3 win. John Danks gave up 7 runs on 11 hits Wednesday, and while Viciedo homered again, the Sox fell 11-4.

The road trip continued in Cleveland. Alexei Ramirez homered on Friday and Chris Sale pitched well, but last only 6 innings. The game went to the 10th, and Chicago lost. The Sox managed only 5 hits and an unearned run Saturday, losing 3-1. Scott Carroll then pitched one of his best games of the season, allowing only 2 runs in 7 innings, but the lineup again misfired all game long, managing only 4 base runners the entire game and losing 2-0.

Minnesota Twins (2-5)

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The Twins concluded a weekend series in Baltimore with a 6-4 win highlighted by 8 innings from Phil Hughes and 3 hits and 4 RBI from Joe Mauer.

Next came a two-game set back home against the White Sox. Kennys Vargas home run gave Minnesota an early lead, but they lost that, and the game eventually went to extras. In the 10th reliever Lester Oliveros gave up two home runs and the Twins lost 6-3. Vargas homered again Wednesday, and Eduardo Nunez had 4 hits to lead the charge in an 11-4 win.

The homestand continued against probably baseball's best team, the Angels. Minnesota lost each of the first two games by one run, and was leading Saturday's contest 5-3 heading in the 8th, having gotten a double and a home run from Eduardo Escobar, but they blew that lead in the 8th and then lost in the 9th. After three games they could have won, Sunday's series finale was a different story, as four different Twins pitchers gave up multiple runs and they were crushed 14-4, putting them a season-worst 21 games below .500.

Injuries

Indians: Mike Aviles has been sidelined since Monday with concussion-like symptoms, he is expected back today or tomorrow; Nick Swisher (DH) had surgery on his knees and is out for the year

Royals: Danny Duffy (SP) was pulled after throwing just one pitch Saturday, due to shoulder soreness, his status is TDB; Greg Holland (RP) was listed as unavailable during the weekend due to triceps tightness, he is expected back today or tomorrow

Tigers: 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 and likely out for the year; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation, he could return this week; Anibal Sanchez (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain., a return date is TBD; Joakim Soria (RP) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return this week

Twins: Tommy Milone (SP) had his start skipped due to shoulder fatigue, but he is expected to be ready for his next turn; Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he is out for the year; Glen Perkins (RP) has been unavailable due to a strained neck, but is expected back in the next few days; Jordan Schafer (OF) has missed a couple games with bruised ribs, but is expected back in the next few days

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

Player Power Poll

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

Offense

5) Alex Gordon (KC) - .275/.353/.452, 127 wRC+, 19 HR, 29 2B 10 SB

4) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .310/.370/.519, 144 wRC+, 22 HR, 44 2B, 100 RBI

3) Michael Brantley (CLE) - .317/.375/.497, 148 wRC+, 18 HR, 39 2B, 19 SB

2) Victor Martinez (DET) - .335/.405/.575, 166 wRC+, 30 HR, 29 2B, 95 RBI

1) Jose Abreu (CHI) - .320/.381/.598, 167 wRC+, 33 HR, 32 2B, 99 RBI

The Week Ahead

Indians: 1 vs. Angels, 3 vs. Twins, 3 @ Tigers

Royals: 3 @ Tigers, 4 vs. Red Sox

Tigers: 3 vs. Royals, 3 vs. Indians

Twins: 3 @ Indians, 3 @ White Sox

White Sox: 4 vs. Athletics, 3 vs. Twins