Superior pitching and hitting are starting to pay off for the Detroit Tigers as they have started their inevitable pulling away from the pack that is the AL Central. After a weekend series sweep of the second place Cleveland Indians, the Tigers now have a comfortable 5 1/2 lead in the division. Only 2 1/2 games separate the second place Indians and the last place Chicago White Sox. Chicago does have the best record of any last place team in the majors.
1) Detroit Tigers (35-26): Last week – 5-1. Summary: After their sweep of the Indians, the Tigers are the only division team over the .500 mark. Despite being shut out one game, the Tigers outscored their opponents 32-16. They are on the road this week for a couple of divisional match-ups. Detroit is in the Central driver’s seat but these games will mean more to the Royals and the Twins, so the Tigers need to be vigilant. Their opponents this week are scrapping to stay in the chase so they could be dangerous. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta (16); Walks – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder (36); OPS – Cabrera (1.088). Pitching: Strikeouts – Max Scherzer (100); Walks – Justin Verlander (26); BAA – Scherzer (.185).
2) Cleveland Indians (30-32): Last week – 0-6. Summary: It was a rough week for the Indians. After falling to the Yankees 3 times in a row, they dropped 3 more to the Tigers in Detroit. Cleveland has now lost 7 in a row. Things do not immediately get easier as Cleveland now must go to Dallas to take on the Rangers before facing a talented Nationals ball club. The Indians still hold a tenuous second place spot in the standings but the standings are very bunched together with 4 very inconsistent teams. Cleveland has the hitting to compete but the jury is out concerning their rotation. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Asdrubal Cabrera (18); Walks – Carlos Santana (34); OPS – Ryan Raburn (.930). Pitching: Strikeouts – Justin Masterson (92); Walks – Masterson (37); BAA – Cody Allen (.82).
3) Kansas City Royals (28-32): Last week – 5-1. Summary: The difference between third place (or even second) and 5th place at this point is basically what teams have good weeks and which have bad weeks. This week, it was the Royals’ turn to be hot. The big question for Kansas City is if they can generate any sort of offense to win their upcoming ball games against Detroit and in Tampa this weekend. The Royals still hold out belief they can compete for a wild card so, while riding a 5-game winning streak , they need to beat some good teams. They can start this week. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon (14); Walks – Billy Butler (35); OPS – Gordon (.809). Pitching: Strikeouts – James Shields (84); Walks – Wade Davis (27); BAA – Luke Hochevar(.190).
4) Minnesota Twins (27-33): Last week – 2-3. Summary: The Twins lost 2 out of three in Kansas City but remain only one game out of third, and 2 out of second. This week, after 3 games Philadelphia, the Twins host the Tigers and need a good showing over the course of the week to keep the Tigers withing shouting distance. Like the Royals, the Twins cannot afford to play poorly against the Tigers. They have to hope their pitching can withstand the offense firepower the Tigers will bring to Minnesota this weekend if they want to stay in the wild card race at all. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Joe Mauer (20); Walks – Josh Willingham (34); OPS – Mauer (.912). Pitching – Strikeouts – Kevin Correia (36); Walks – Mike Pelfrey (20); BAA – Glen Perkins (.185).
5) Chicago White Sox (27-34): Last week – 3-4. Summary: The White Sox bounced back a little from a week long losing streak the week before, and won a few games. Their offense is really struggling as they have only scored more than 4 runs once in their last 13 games. They face a Toronto team this week that has been a huge disappointment because of their wealth of talent. The Blue Jays have struggled but are a very dangerous team. The Sox do need to take advantage of 4 games with the Houston Astros. If Chicago is still in last place a week from now, they will have little or no chance of making a serious run at Detroit, or a wild card spot. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Alex Rios (14); Walks – Adam Dunn (26); OPS – Rios (.842). Pitching: Strikeouts – Chris Sale (72); Walks – Hector Santiago (26); BAA – Jesse Crain (.190).
Right now, with the exception of Detroit, mediocrity rules the AL Central. Eight teams in the AL are under .500 and 4 of them are Central teams. Another team or two needs to separate themselves from the pack and time is starting to run out for any of these teams to challenge Detroit, or contend for a wild card spot.