AL Central Update – 8/26/13: Tigers Locked; Indians In The Wild Card


The situation in the AL Central worked itself out just a bit this past week as the Detroit Tigers have a 6-game league over the Cleveland Indians in the division with only 32 games left. It will take a pretty significant September swoon for the Tigers to blow this lead. The Indians have scratched their way right into the thick of things in the wild card race and have an outstanding chance at making the playoffs.

Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Royals fell to earth after flying too close to the sun, Icarus-style. The Minnesota Twins continue to fade while the Chicago White Sox have played much better recently.

1) Detroit Tigers (77-53, 0 GB): Last week – 4-2. Summary: The Tigers quickly recovered from a series hiccup against the Twins by sweeping the Mets after losing two to Minnesota. Max Scherzer continues to dominate and is flat out running away with the Cy Young in the American League. He has approximately 6 more starts left so he would have to win all of them to reach 25 wins. This is a tough week for the Tigers as they face the Oakland Athletics for 4 in Detroit before going head-to-head against the Indians over the weekend. Detroit’s two opponents are second and third in the wild card race. The Tigers just need to take care of business; the division is theirs. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Torii Hunter (30), On Base Percentage – Miguel Cabrera (.450), Grounded Into Double Plays – Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez (18). Pitching: Innings Pitched – Max Scherzer (178.1), Strikeouts – Scherzer (196), Walks – Justin Verlander(62).

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

2) Cleveland Indians (71-59, 6 GB): Last week – 5-1. Summary: The Tribe are doing what they need to, when they need to. They stepped up against two sub .500 ball clubs and won the games they were supposed to. The Indians have put themselves right into the conversation as a legitimate playoff contender. Things will be more difficult this week as they go on the road for 3 in Atlanta and 3 in Detroit. If they can win both series’, maybe they can even make a run at the Tigers, which will difficult, and may require a sweep of Detroit over the weekend for there to be any chance at all. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Carlos Santana (31), OBP – Santana (.372), GDP – Mike Aviles (10). Pitching: IP – Justin Masterson (182.1), Strikeouts – Masterson (182), Walks – Ubaldo Jimenez (73).

3) Kansas City Royals (65-64, 11.5 GB): Last week – 1-5. Summary: The Royals proved themselves to be just a pretender, not a contender, as they needed a couple of late runs to end a 7-game losing streak on Sunday. The last five losses were against lesser teams, and unlike the Indians, the Royals were unable to step up and deliver against those teams. This week, Kansas City has a make up game Monday at home against Tampa Bay before moving on to Minnesota and Toronto. Again, these teams are under .500, so the Royals should be winning a majority of them. It is possible for the Royals to get back in the wild card discussion, but they are 7 games back with only 33 games to go; there are just too many teams for them to jump over. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Eric Hosmer (26), OBP – Billy Butler (.383), GDP – Butler (20). Pitching: IP – James Shields (181.2), Strikeouts – Shields (145), Walks – Shields (56).

4) Minnesota Twins (57-72, 19.5 GB): Last week – 3-4. Summary: The Twins’ 3 wins came at the expense of the Tigers and Indians as they played those two club even for the week combined. At this point in the season, that has to be considered a positive. This week, the Twins can just bury the Royals and smash the last of their fans’ playoff dreams. After they host the Royals for three, the Twins travel to Texas for a weekend series against the Rangers. Joe Mauer is presently on the 7-day concussion DL and it is tough to compete without your best hitter in the line-up for several days. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Joe Mauer (35), OBP – Mauer (.404), GDP – Ryan Doumit (11). Pitching: Kevin Correia (147.1), Strikeouts – Corriea (81), Walks – Mike Pelfrey(46).

Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Chicago White Sox (54-75, 22.5 GB): Last week – 5-1. Summary: The Sox just stabbed the Royals in the heart last week by sweeping them in Kansas City, then they took 2 of three from the Rangers over the weekend. If Chicago wants to play spoiler, they have gotten off to a very good start in that department. This week, they have a chance to win some games, at least early in the week, with Houston in town for 3. After that, it is off to Beantown for a weekend tilt. The White Sox have actually played better ball since trading away several of the better players a few weeks ago. Usually, that is a mirage – we’ll see if it continues over the last month of the season. Team Leaders – Hitting: Doubles – Alex Ramirez (35), OBP – Gordon Beckham (.340), GDP – Ramirez (14). Pitching: IP – Chris Sale (172.1), Strikeouts – Sale (181), Walks – Hector Santiago (60).

The Royals are not absolutely done but the past two weeks have all but eliminated them from playoff contention. The Indians do have an outside chance at catching the Tigers but Detroit is just such a well rounded team right now, it is difficult to see them going on any extended stretches where they lose a bunch of games. If the Indians just concentrate on the winning games, they very well could make the playoffs as a wild card.