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Central Intelligence: The Minnesota Twins are in 1st place in the AL Central

After one week of baseball, the AL Central is upside down.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins lost 103 games last year. It was their worst season since the franchise arrived in Minnesota in 1961, and only the seventh time the club has lost 100 games in their 116-year history. No MLB team has lost 103 games since the Houston Astros went 51-111 in 2013.

So, naturally, the Twins are 5-1 and in first place a week into the 2017 season.

The Twins opened the season with a pair of series against divisional foes. They swept the Kansas City Royals out of town to kick off their home schedule, then took two of three against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Their offense has been clicking so far, scoring 30 runs in their six games played.

The Twins’ beleaguered pitching staff has been the real difference maker. The Twins have held opponents to just one run in four of their six games. The Royals only scored five runs in their three-game series against the Twins, while the White Sox were unable to get much going in two of their three matchups. Ervin Santana led the way, holding opponents to just one run on four hits in 13 innings across two starts. Phil Hughes and Hector Santiago also had strong outings, while the bullpen limited opponents to just four runs in 22 13 innings, a 1.61 ERA.

Will we see the Twins continue this torrid stretch? Who knows? The White Sox shot out of the gate last year, only to falter to a 78-84 record by season’s end. The Twins did the same in 2015, though, and nearly clinched a Wild Card spot.

AL Central Standings: April 10, 2017

Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Minnesota Twins 5 1 .833 -
Detroit Tigers 3 2 .600 1.5
Cleveland Indians 3 3 .500 2.0
Chicago White Sox 2 3 .400 2.5
Kansas City Royals 2 4 .333 3.0

Minnesota Twins: 5-1

As mentioned, the Twins roared out of the gate with five wins in their first six games. They scored 16 of their 30 runs in their first two games of the season, and battered a now-mortal Royals bullpen for 14 runs in their opening series. Miguel Sano appears to have shaken off a subpar 2016 season; he is hitting .350/.458/.850 with two home runs and eight RBI thus far in 2017. Shortstop Jorge Polanco and catcher Jason Castro have also gotten off to hot starts. Polanco is 7-for-18 with a home run and two doubles, while Castro has a home run, five RBI, and seven walks already.

On the pitching side, just about everyone has chipped in. Santana led the way with a 0.69 ERA through two starts, but the Twins’ entire starting rotation combined for 19 strikeouts and zero walks in 30 23 innings. The lone downer was lefthander Adalberto Mejia, who gave up three runs (two earned) and did not make it out of the second inning in his first start of the season. As one might expect, the Twins lost that game.

Up next: at Tigers, vs. White Sox

Cleveland Indians: 3-3

The Indians looked like world beaters in their opening series, sweeping the Texas Rangers in dramatic fashion down in Arlington, Texas. They came back from a 5-1 deficit — in a game Yu Darvish started, no less — to win 8-5 on Opening Day, and scored five runs off closer Sam Dyson to cap off their sweep last Wednesday. New acquisition Edwin Encarnacion endeared himself to Tribe fans early, hitting a game-tying home run in the eighth inning on Opening Day. Francisco Lindor established himself as a bonafide MVP candidate with a great week, including three home runs and a 1.065 OPS.

Their dream of a wire-to-wire season ended over the weekend, though. The Indians were swept decisively by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have an MLB-best 6-1 record thus far. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer were hit hard in their starts; the duo combined to allow 10 runs on 14 hits in just 10 13 innings, though they did strike out 13 batters to just one combined walk. Corey Kluber tried to stop the bleeding on Sunday, but was bested by Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin, who tossed six shutout innings to cap the sweep.

Up next: vs. White Sox, vs. Tigers

Chicago White Sox: 2-3

Following their series split with the Tigers to open the season, the White Sox hosted the Twins for three games over the weekend. They were able to get to starter Adalberto Mejia on Saturday en route to a 6-1 win, but dropped a pair of low-scoring games on Friday and Sunday. The Sox offense has been rather boom-or-bust so far, scoring 17 of their 22 runs in their two wins. Catcher Geovany Soto already has three home runs in just four games, but the rest of the team has two dingers combined. Jose Abreu has been on base a fair amount, but has just one double and no homers in 20 at-bats. On the pitching side, Jose Quintana looked better in a weekend start, holding the Twins to two runs on five hits in 6 13 innings. He struck out seven and walked one in a losing effort.

Up next: at Indians, at Twins

Kansas City Royals: 2-4

The Royals’ first week of the 2017 season may have been even more bizarre than Minnesota’s. Kansas City dropped three games at Target Field to open the season, scoring just five runs in the process. They then doubled their tally in a 5-1 victory against the Houston Astros on Friday, then proceeded to score seven more in another road win on Saturday. The Royals nearly pulled off a road sweep at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, but ultimately dropped a close game in extra innings — on a walk-off walk, no less.

Of course, the big story of the Royals’ season so far is their bullpen. Once a dominant unit in the late innings, Kansas City’s ‘pen allowed 19 runs on 20 hits in 19 innings over the week, and wore three of the team’s four losses following solid starts from the rotation. No Royals starter allowed more than three runs in a single game, though a pair — veteran righties Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel — were rather inefficient in getting there. Ace lefthander Danny Duffy has been his usual self so far, if a little wild; he has five walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Up next: vs. Athletics, vs. Angels