There is one word to describe the American League Central Division since the end of May: inconsistent. Even the mighty Tigers have been subject to losing streaks and baseball woes. No team has been dominant or excellent throughout the last two weeks, which brings about a very important question:
Who will win the AL Central?
At this point, the race is primarily between the top two teams in the division: the Tigers and the Kansas City Royals. However, nothing is certain in this particular division. The AL Central could become the most exciting race in all of baseball. Every team has over 30 wins, and the best and worst teams in the division are only separated by 5 1/2 games. Nothing is certain, and the division may not be decided until the last day of September.
Until then, here’s where each of the teams stand in the division and how they did in the past week:
1. Detroit Tigers (36-29, 3-3, 1st in AL Central)
The Tigers were supposed to be the best team in baseball. On paper, they certainly are, and just a few short weeks ago, they were playing like it. The Tigers looked unstoppable at the end of May. Miguel Cabrera was back to form, and the pitching staff was just as lethal as last season. Since the beginning of June, though, the Tigers have hit a skid. They are 3-7 in their past 10 games (as of June 13th), and their achilles heel of a bullpen was exposed. Joe Nathan, the once dominant closer, struggled against his former team (Minnesota), while the rest of the bullpen struggled to keep opposing batters from crossing the plate. Justin Verlander was also lit up in his last start, another major concern for the Tigers who need their starters to pitch deep into games to keep their struggling bullpen off the field.
2. Kansas City Royals (36-32, 5-0, 2nd in AL Central)
The Royals are surging exactly when they need to be. At the end of May, the Tigers looked as though they had wrapped up the division in a nice little bow. However, as the Tigers struggled, the Royals played some of their best baseball. The only loss they suffered since June 6th was a loss to the New York Yankees. Otherwise, the Royals have been totally dominant. They absolutely dominated in their series against their division rivals, the Indians and White Sox, and if the season were to end next week, they might just be the team on top of the division. Their upcoming four game series against the Tigers will be very telling. The Royals are only 1 1/2 games off of the division, and if they are able to sweep the Tigers, they will have total control of the division on their own. It may be the Tigers division to lose, but the Royals certainly are not going to hand it to them wrapped in a box.
3. Cleveland Indians (35-35, 3-4, 3rd in the AL Central)
With all the talk of Johnny Manziel, many people seem to have forgotten about the Indians. In the past week, that was very easy to do. The Indians have been struggling, especially in throughout this 10 game road stretch and have a critical 7-game homestretch coming up. This stretch could give the Indians the momentum they need to make a run at a Wild Card after the All-Star Break, or it could completely break their backs. Either way, the Indians have played significantly better at home than they have on the road. At home, the Indians are on a 9-game win streak and have been totally dominant at their ballpark. This could be the opportunity for them to bump and boost their record over .500.
4. Minnesota Twins (32-35, 3-3, 4th in the AL Central)
The Twins started the week in the cellar of the AL Central. Clearly, they were able to dig themselves out of the hole and take command of the fourth spot in the division. The Twins won their first series against the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 and were in almost every game they played after getting shellacks by the Houston Astros. However, the Twins have been plagued by inconsistencies on both sides of the ball. Joe Mauer seems to have recovered from being booed at home, increasing his batting percentage to .261. However, the Twins only have one person batting above .300 (Kurt Suzuki at .304), while the rest of the team is averaging below .250. Their starting pitchers and bullpen have kept the Twins in most of their games. Kyle Gibson has pitched very well in his recent starts and the bullpen pitchers have done their duty of keeping the other teams offense at bay. The Twins may not make a run for the division, but they are not as bad as some people thought they might be.
5. Chicago White Sox (33-37, 2-4, 5th in AL Central)
Bad news for the White Sox: They were absolutely killed by the Kansas City Royals
The White Sox are about to get a much needed break before they embark on a grueling journey of playing 16 games in 16 days. Unfortunately for the White Sox, most of those games are on the road. Fortunately for the White Sox, none of the games are against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals just swept the White Sox at home in an absolutely ruthless fashion. The Sox didn’t score more than three runs in any of their games and lost by at least 3 runs or more. The White Sox are basically in the race to stay out of the 5th spot in the division and really have no chance to make a run for a playoff spot.