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Indians tighten AL Central race with (sort of) sweep of Royals

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A look at last week's action around the AL Central, with recaps, top players, key injuries, and more...

AL Central standings (through Sunday, August 31):

Royals 74 61 - 552 530 +22
Tigers 74 62 .5 633 600 +33
Indians 70 64 3.5 576 552 +24
White Sox 62 75 13 576 653 -77
Twins 59 77 15.5 594 643 -49

The Indians were the AL Central's team of the week, getting themselves back into the race and helping Detroit in the process. (an unfortunate side effect) Kansas City fans have probably stepped out onto the ledge after the weekend they just experienced, but the Royals are still in 1st place, somewhere they haven't been in September since 1985.

Kansas City Royals (2-4)

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The Royals began their week with a makeup game at home against the Yankees. James Shields gave up 6 runs and the KC lost 8-1, with a Mike Moustakas home run providing their only scoring.

Next into town were the Twins. The Royals were losing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th, seeming to have wasted another great game from Danny Duffy (who has already taken the loss despite giving up no more than 1 earned run 6 times this season, the most such games by any starter since teams switched to 5-man rotations ~40 years ago), but Alex Gordon hit a walk-off two-run homer, sending the hometown crowd into hysterics. The Royals were losing 1-0 late again on Wednesday, but this time they started the comeback an inning early, scoring a half dozen runs and winning 6-1. The series finale was tied at 5 at the end of 9 innings. Bruce Chen was put in for the 10th, and he quickly allowed 6 runs to score, leaving Kansas City with an 11-5 loss.

The homestand continued with the Indians. Friday night the Royals fell behind early and never really got anything going, losing 6-1 despite 4 hits by Alcides Escobar. Shields gave up just 1 run in 7 innings Saturday, but Kansas City was behind 7-1 when he left. In the bottom of the 8th though, they put together a rally and tied the game, though with runners and second and third when the inning ended, they were surely looking for more than one run. The game went to extras, and in the 11th KC allowed 2 runs. They got one of them back in the bottom half, but lost 3-2. The Royals were behind 2-1 going into the bottom of the 9th Sunday night, but Alex Gordon continued his heroics with a game-tying home run. The Royals fell back behind in the 10th though, and then before the game could finish, rain came in. The game was suspended, and will not be concluded until September 22nd, when the two teams will pick up with the bottom of the 10th inning while playing in Cleveland.

Detroit Tigers (4-3)

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The Tigers were at home to face the Yankees during the week. J.D. Martinez had 3 hits in the opener, and Rick Porcello allowed just 2 runs in 8 innings to pick up his 15th win of the season. On Wednesday David Price gave up 9 hits in a row to begin the 3rd inning. He was pulled from the game without recording an out in that frame, and charged with all 8 of the runs that scored in an 8-4 defeat. Kyle Lobstein started the series finale for Detroit, and did far better, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings. With two outs in the 9th, Alex Avila singled in a run to win the game and the series.

It was then off to Chicago for the weekend. Justin Verlander looked as good as he has in quite a while Friday night, striking out 8 while allowing only 1 run in 7 innings. J.D. Martinez had 3 hits again to lead the offense in a 7-1 victory. Max Scherzer was touched up for 6 runs (5 earned) in the first of two games Saturday, as the Tigers fell 6-3. Kyle Ryan was called up to make his MLB debut in the nightcap, and he delivered 6 shutout innings. Ian Kinsler and Don Kelly each had 3 hits in the 8-4 win, but Miguel Cabrera exited early with a sore ankle and missed the series finale. The Tigers made 4 errors on Sunday, and Porcello gave up 11 hits as Detroit lost 6-2.

Cleveland Indians (4-1)

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The Indians started their week in Chicago. T.J. House wasn't sharp Monday, but the Tribe lineup was up to the task (a rarity of late) and sent the game to extra innings. In the top of the 10th Zach Walters homered for the 6th time in his first 13 games with the Indians, who won 8-6. On Tuesday Cy Young contender Corey Kluber wasn't his best, and when left in to start the 7th inning, he eventually gave up the decisive run in a 3-2 loss. In Wednesday's rubber match Carlos Carrasco continued to pitch really well since his return to the rotation (from the bullpen), giving up just 1 run in 6.2 innings, with 7 strikeouts. Michael Bourn tripled twice in the 3-2 victory, making him the first Indians player to do that twice in one season since Kenny Lofton back in 1995.

The road trip continued in Kansas City. Danny Salazar pitched 5 shutout innings before rain arrived Friday night. A parade of relievers kept things going for a 6-1 win. Carlos Santana hit his 6th home run of the season at Kauffman Stadium, tying a record for visiting players. Trevor Bauer pitched 5.2 shutout innings Saturday. The Tribe offense struggled though, and the game eventually went to extras tied at a run apiece. In the 11th though, Michael Brantley and Santana each singled in a run, and Cleveland held on for a 3-2 win. T.J. House pitched the best game of his MLB career Sunday, giving up only 1 run in 7 innings. Cody Allen blew only his second save of the season in the 9th, but in the 10th Lonnie Chisenhall doubled in a pair of runs to put the Indians back ahead 4-2. Before the bottom half could begin, a huge storm came through, causing the game to be suspended. The teams will pick up where they left off, but not until September 22nd in Cleveland.

Chicago White Sox (3-4)

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The White Sox hosted Cleveland to begin the week. Jose Quintana struggled on Monday, but an Alexei Ramirez home run helped Chicago extend the game to extra innings. They fell 8-6 in the 10th though. The next night Hector Noesi made a solid start, giving up just 2 runs in 7 innings, and a pair of RBI singles by Jose Abreu helped the Sox to a 3-2 win. John Danks pitched fairly well on Wednesday too, but the bats couldn't quite do enough and Chicago fell by the same 3-2 they'd won by on Tuesday.

The homestand continued against Detroit over the weekend. Scott Carroll and bad defense by Abreu combined to allow 7 runs to score in the first four innings Friday night, and the Sox fell 7-1. Chris Sale struck out 13 in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, and Chicago won 6-3, with home runs by Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers leading the offense. Chris Bassitt made his MLB debut in the second game, but gave up 5 runs in 6.1 innings, as Chicago fell 8-4. Quintana did well on Sunday, giving up 2 runs in 7 innings. Adam Eaton had a pair of doubles and Abreu picked up his 99th RBI of the season in a 6-2 win that gave Chicago a split of the series.

Minnesota Twins (1-5)

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The Twins got a gem from Ricky Nolasco in the opener of their three-game series in Kansas City, 7 shutout innings, but Minnesota's offense managed only one run of their own, and Glen Perkins allowed a leadoff single in the 9th, then gave up a walk-off home run. Phil Hughes began Wednesday's game with 7 shutout innings, but in the 8th he was charged with 4 of the 6 runs that scored, as Minnesota lost 6-1. The Twins took the lead 3 times in regulation on Thursday, but allowed Kansas City to tie it over and over again. Finally in the 10th, a string of hits have Minnesota a 6-run lead, finally large enough that they couldn't squander it, as they salvaged a victory.

The weekend brought a trip to Baltimore for a 4-game series that will conclude Monday. Friday night Twins starter Trevor May gave up 8 runs, and Trevor Plouffe's solo homer wasn't nearly enough in a 9-1 defeat. Saturday's game was much closer, but a 3-2 loss is still a loss, and the Twins fell a season-worst 17 games below .500. On Sunday they fell a little further, despite another home run by Plouffe and one by Danny Salazar, because Nolasco reverted to form and gave up 8 runs on 12 hits in 5 innings, and Minnesota fell 12-8.


Indians: David Murphy (OF) is on the 15-day DL with a right abdominal strain, he could return next week; Ryan Raburn (OF) is on the 15-day DL with right wrist soreness, he could return this week; Nick Swisher (DH) had surgery on his knees and is out for the year

Royals: Eric Hosmer (1B) is on the 15-day DL with a fractured right hand, he is expected to return this week; Yordano Ventura (SP) was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday, but is expected back this week

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (1B) is day-to-day with right ankle soreness; Andy Dirks (OF) is on the DL and likely out for the year; Joel Hanrahan (RP) is on the 60-day DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery and likely out for the year; Luke Putkonen (RP) is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation, he could return this week; Anibal Sanchez (SP) is on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain. he could be return next week; Joakim Soria (RP) is on the 15-day DL with a left oblique strain, he could return next week

Twins: Mike Pelfrey (SP) is on the 60-day DL with an elbow injury, he is out for the year; Kurt Suzuki (C) was hit by a foul tip Saturday and did not play on Sunday, but he is expected back today or tomorrow

White Sox: Nate Jones (RP) is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery

Player Power Poll

(Each week this alternates between the division's top hitters and pitchers of the season)


5) Phil Hughes (MIN) - 172.2 IP, 3.70 ERA, 108 ERA+, 2.58 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 0.8 BB/9

4) Rick Porcello (DET) - 180.0 IP, 3.10 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.60 FIP, 5.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9

3) Max Scherzer (DET) - 187.2 IP, 3.26 ERA, 125 ERA+, 2.84 FIP, 10.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9

2) Chris Sale (CWS) - 149.0 IP, 2.11 ERA, 185 ERA+, 2.52 FIP, 10.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

1) Corey Kluber (CLE) - 192.2 IP, 2.52 ERA, 147 ERA+, 2.44 FIP, 10.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

The Week Ahead

Indians: 4 vs. Tigers, 3 vs. White Sox

Royals: 3 vs. Rangers, 3 @ Yankees

Tigers: 4 @ Indians, 3 vs. Giants

Twins: 1 @ Orioles, 2 vs. White Sox, 4 vs. Angels

White Sox: 2 @ Twins, 3 @ Indians

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