This Week in the AL Central
By Scott Byrne
June 20, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta (27) raises his hand in the air after he hits a two run walk off home run in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
For the most recent week passed – Friday, June 14- Thursday, June 20:
1. Detroit Tigers 40 – 31
2. Cleveland Indians 36 – 35
3. Kansas City Royals 34 – 36
4. Minnesota Twins 32 – 26
5. Chicago White Sox 29 – 40
POWER RANKING/WEEKLY RECORD
1. Detroit Tigers 4 – 3
2. Cleveland Indians 4 – 2
3. Minnesota Twins 4 – 2
4. Kansas City Royals 3 – 3
5. Chicago White Sox 1 – 6
• The TIGERS were doing a fine job of stringing together series wins until the powerful Orioles came to town…Jhonny Peralta‘s big fly last night was off one of those coveted “big-name” closers that prove to be so enigmatic…There is a lot of consternation over Justin Verlander’s inconsistency this season. Myriad comparisons can be drawn, but statistically so far JV most resembles his 2009 campaign (19-9, 3.49) – with two exceptions; he is throwing his change-up twice as often, and his average fastball is down 3 MPH. Certainly invites closer scrutiny going forward…Austin Jackson provided needed spark atop the lineup, showing little ill-effect from his DL stint – 10-for-24, 5 R, 1 HR and 1 SB…For some perspective, on June 20, 2012, Detroit was 33-35, in 3rd place and 3 games out. Considering Ajax was out for a month, the collection of gas cans in the bullpen, the struggles of Alex Avila, and far too many starts for Don Kelly, the 4-game division lead looks pretty good right now…CLOSER WATCH – Some solid, cheap bullpen arms are covered here, but keep an eye on David Aardsma of the Mets, who has posted zeroes in six straight outings. Two-plus years removed from arm surgery, Double-A Aardsma’s last full-time gig was with Seattle in 2010 when he posted 31 saves in 35 chances, and he has averaged a K per-inning throughout his career.
• The INDIANS indeed heated up at home, winning series vs. the Rays and Royals… Jason Kipnis continued to rake and run, .368 with 3 steals, and Corey Kluber pitched a gem, hurling 8 donuts and 8 K’s vs. the Nats… The brutal June schedule is nearly behind them and they have stayed within shouting distance of the lead. After hosting the feisty Twins this weekend, the Tribe travels to Baltimore for 4, visit the Pale Hose for 4, and KC for three, before returning home to host the Tigers. Let’s see where that stretch leaves them…
• The TWINS trimmed the Tigers once last weekend at Comerica, then padded their stats sweeping the sinking Sox. They welcomed slugging third sacker Trevor Plouffe off the DL as he hit .333 with a dinger and six ribbies; Brian Dozier contributed 2 HR and 5 RBI. Glen Perkins continued his audition for a contending team (Hello, Ben Cherington?) by going 9 up, 9 down for 3 more saves.
• The ROYALS cooled off a bit, but Ervin Santana stayed hot on the hill. He lowered his ERA to 2.64 on the season, and has issued just 15 free passes in 99 innings… Benchwarmer Elliot Johnson provided a spark, with a .400 avg, a homer, and two sacks swiped. Eric Hosmer has shown signs of life also, going 8-for-29 and doubling his season HR total (albeit from 1 to 2)…Interesting commentary here about what George Brett has brought to the Royals in his brief tenure as batting coach…
• The WHITE SOX continued their slide into selling-mode at the trade deadline, losing 3 of 4 in Houston and getting swept in the Twin Cities…Lefty John Danks has been troubled by the long ball in his return from shoulder surgery, yielding a Valverde-esque 10 bombs in 35 innings, including 4 in 5 innings to the Twins on Thursday… Jesse Crain will get a shot at a closer gig somewhere, with 27-straight scoreless appearances, a microscopic 0.57 ERA, and 42 K’s in 31 innings.
LAST WEEK”S FOCAL POINTS:
• Tigers-Twins ninth-inning comparison: Jose Valverde got the ball in a non-save situation Friday, and Joaquin Benoit closed out Sunday’s victory. Meanwhile, Glen Perkins left-handed arsenal made Tigers fans jealous.
• Cleveland’s homestand: So far, so good for the Tribe, bouncing back from losing 8 straight and hot on the heels of the Tigers.
• The White Sox tepid offense vs. Houston and Minnesota: Squeaked out 25 runs in 7 games vs. two of the worst pitching staffs in the league.
• The Royals road trip to Tampa and Cleveland: Not catastrophic, but a microcosm of their inconsistent season so far.
THIS WEEK, KEEP AN EYE ON:
• Tigers tough stretch against the 1st place Bosox and the underachieving Angels.
• Will the Tribe keep the Tigers in their sights as they travel to Camden Yards?
• Will the Royals string together wins vs. the struggling Sox?
• The Twins travel to Cleveland and Miami for a winnable stretch of games.