It will take a collapse of colossal proportions for the Detroit Tigers not to win the AL Central at this point. In the last two weeks, they have systematically dashed the hopes of both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals, and have dented those teams’ wild card aspirations in the process. With the rotation the Tigers have, plus the potent offense, a sustained September team slump is unlikely.
1)Detroit Tigers (73-51, 0 GB): Last week – 4-4. Summary: Things started out rough for the Tigers as they lost 2 of 3 to the White Sox, then after beating the Royals in game one of a 5 game series, got swept by Kansas City Friday night in a doubleheader. It took a crushing walk-off home run by Miguel Cabrera to deflate the fired up Royals squad. At this point, Detroit just needs to avoid losing streaks of any length and to win series’ to maintain a whopping lead over their nearest challengers. This week, the Twins and the Mets come calling. Any less than a 4-2 week would be a disappointing underachievement.
Top 3 Wins Above Replacement – Hitting: Miguel Cabrera (6.8), Jhonny Peralta (3.5 – suspended, out for the year), Austin Jackson (2.6). Pitching: Max Scherzer (5.4), Anibal Sanchez (4.3), Justin Verlander(3.0).
2) Cleveland Indians (66-58, 7 GB): Last week – 3-3. Summary: A .500 week isn’t the worst thing in the world – unless you are trying to make the playoffs. Treading water at this point in the season will not help any teams trying make up ground. The Tribe came up short in a key weekend series in Oakland, dropping 2 of 3 games. Cleveland is still within reasonable striking distance of the wild card spots at 4.5 back, but they can ill afford to have any more bad weeks. Coming up, the Indians have a chance to make up some ground as they play two teams that are not contending in the Angels and the Twins. Cleveland needs to win both series to stay in the chase.
3) Kansas City Royals (64-59, 8.5 GB):Last week – 3-5. Summary: It was a disappointing week to say the least. The Royals dropped 2 out of their 3 games with the lowly Miami Marlins, then dropped the series to Detroit, 3 games to 2. They lost a couple of games they should not have, so instead of being just 4 games out of the playoff race, they are 6. They will have to outplay 5 teams now to make it in, and time is running out. All is not lost for the Royals as 16 of their next 17 games are against teams not in contention. They cannot play around .500 over the next 2 and a half weeks; they must win most of those games. This week, they play 3 against the White Sox and 3 against the Nationals. Kansas City can still make a move but it must start now.
4) Minnesota Twins (54-68, 18 GB): Last week – 2-5. Summary: Things just got worse last week as they lost 3 in a row to the White Sox. It will be interesting to see if the Twins bring several players up in September in an effort to get them some major league at bats or innings. The Twins will be spending plenty of time evaluating players Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and others over the next few weeks to determine if they are a good fit into plans for the future. Coming up, the Twins have a rain make-up with Mets Monday, then they get to play spoiler with the big boys as they visit Detroit and Cleveland this week. Wins won’t salvage Minnesota’s season, but they sure would feel good.
5) Chicago White Sox (49-74, 23.5 GB): Last week – 5-2. Summary – Two wins in row early in the week against the Tigers and a 3-game winning streak to end the week made it a good seven days for the rebuilding White Sox. Despite the rebuilding mode Chicago is in, they still have some good starting pitching from on which to build. If they can develop or sign some offense quickly, this process may not take that long. This week, Chicago gets to try to mess up playoff plans for two postseason hopefuls in the Royals and the Texas Rangers. There is little the Southsiders would enjoy more at this point than to just knock Kansas City completely out of the wild race.