Jun 8, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third basemanNick Castellanos
(9) hits a single in the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
After 17 straight games outside of the division, the Detroit Tigers return to AL Central play where they have made a living for the past few years. In 2013, the Tigers went 47-29 in the Central. In 2012, that record was 43-29. In 2011, that record was 50-22. Needless to say, the key to the Tigers’ three consecutive division titles is their record in the Central.
So far in 2014, the Tigers have a 12-9 record against the Central which surprisingly ranks 3rd in division record in the division. The Chicago White Sox have a record of 14-11 in the Central, the Cleveland Indians are 14-12, and the Minnesota Twins are 11-10. For four teams to be over the .500 mark in the division means someone is the whipping boy and the Kansas City Royals fill that role with their 6-15 record against their divisional rivals.
The schedule lays out long stretches inside of the division, most notably at the end of the season, but this is a 14 game midseason stretch with one series against each team in the division. This stretch starts with a 4 game series in Chicago, a 3 game series at home against Minnesota, 4 at home against the Kansas City Royals which includes a makeup of April 3rd’s rainout on Thursday, and ends with a 3 game set in Cleveland.
The Tigers have been up and down this season to say the least. After the Tigers swept the Boston Red Sox in Boston, we have the now infamous plane troubles plus Zubaz trip to Cleveland which resulted in the beginning of a 4-13 stretch were the Tigers could not do anything right. Now after taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox, the Tigers head into Chicago.
The White Sox are 31-33 and coming off of a 9 game west coast swing in which they went 3-6 and were just swept by the Los Angeles Angels. They are playing classic White Sox/U.S. Cellular baseball in the fact that they are top 5 in runs in all of baseball, but are 26th and 29th in ERA and WHIP respectively. Everyone knows about Jose Abreu who will battle Masahiro Tanaka for AL Rookie of the Year honors, but Alexei Ramriez is having a very solid year in the lineup too. Those are the two big bats to watch this week. It will be important for the starting staff and bullpen to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard and let the offense hit around the hittable White Sox pitching.
The Minnesota Twins are last in the division and they aren’t doing a whole lot right. They rank 15th in runs scored, 10th in OBP, but 22nd in batting average and slugging. When the Twins got off to a hot start, it was the offense that was carrying them and they were one of the top scoring teams in baseball in April. The Twins pitching staff is bottom 5 in every category. Anything less than taking 2 of 3 in the weekend series at home is unacceptable for the Tigers.
The Tigers then see the Royals and Indians. The Royals are up and down which is reflected in their 31-32 record. They aren’t hitting much at the moment which seems to be a theme for anyone in a KC uniform in recent memory besides Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, especially when it comes to the Tigers. If the Tigers can score some runs against the Royals, the Royals would be hard pressed to take a split in Detroit. Cleveland is the wild card of the group. Lately, the Indians have been hot outside a sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in which they scored 5 runs in 3 games. Lately, it has been the offense carrying the Indians to a very nice stretch in which they pulled themselves within 3 games of the Tigers.
It seems that everyone has backed away from the panic button after the series against Boston and this stretch against the AL Central is the perfect time for the Tigers to regain a commanding lead of this division.