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Central Intelligence: Indians are back on top, but they’ll have to share

Tigers cling to their first place position, but the AL Central remains tight.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

What a difference a week makes.

This time last Monday the Minnesota Twins continued their remarkable start by holding onto the number two spot in the Central, barely behind the Tigers. The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, were at the bottom of the pack, in spite of all predictions pointing to the contrary.

In a week heavy with division match ups, it should come as no surprise that the standings would shuffle. A dismal series in Tampa Bay threatened to knock the Tigers off their first place pedestal, but thanks to some exciting action in Minneapolis, they were able to stay in the number one spot. Cleveland, in the course of the week, managed to climb from the bottom of the division all the way to the top, where they are currently tied with Detroit.

The Twins, White Sox, and Royals shuffled the deck slightly with their positions, with Kansas City finding themselves on the bottom end of the heap. With even more divisional match-ups ahead this week, things are likely to change dramatically again over the coming days.

AL Central Standings: April 24, 2017

Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Detroit Tigers 10 8 0.556 -
Cleveland Indians 10 8 0.556 -
Chicago White Sox 8 9 0.471 1.5
Minnesota Twins 8 10 0.444 2
Kansas City Royals 7 11 0.389 3

Cleveland Indians: 10-8

The season might have started off with less than magical results for the Indians, but they went into this week on a mission to prove they still had championship stuff, and boy did they ever. They won five of their six games, sweeping the Twins and taking the series against the White Sox 2-1.

Michael Brantley is currently leading the team with 10 hits and two home runs. If he can get his strikeouts under control he will be a force to be reckoned with for the Indians. Carlos Santana has improved too, collecting seven hits over the week. Actually, it’s not at all hard to see why the Indians were so successful this past week: their batters were actually making contact. Even poor Yan Gomes managed to collect five hits, which had got to make the Cleveland crowd happy. Don’t look for this to change much this week now that the Indians have second baseman Jason Kipnis back in their lineup.

On the pitching front, Corey Kluber dazzled with a complete game shutout in which he struck out nine and allowed only three hits. Carlos Carrasco also turned in a sharp-looking eight innings against the White Sox. This kind of starting pitching is dangerous because it gives their bullpen a lot of rest to stay sharp.

Up Next: vs. Astros, vs. Mariners

Chicago White Sox: 8-9

It was a rough week for Chicago’s other baseball team. They won only a single game in both their series against the Yankees and the Indians. Now, one has to consider that the White Sox are very clearly in the midst of a rebuild year, having dropped much of their big-name talent over the winter in order to bulk up their farm with some promising prospects. Of course, knowing that doesn’t help take the sting off when your team is losing more often than they win.

The White Sox have been struggling with their starting pitching depth this season, bringing in a rookie Dylan Covey last week, and then using former Tiger Mike Pelfrey in Saturday’s game against the Indians. Pelfrey — who Chicago hoped could go five innings — gave up four runs and was pulled in the fifth. In case you were wondering if the Tigers were missing anything by dropping him, the answer is no.

Jacob May finally ended his 0-for-26 hitless streak, getting his first major league hit in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Unfortunately the White Sox wouldn’t be able to capitalize on it, as they were shut out of their second game in a row.

In a memorable bit of on-field drama, a fan ran onto the outfield grass during the ninth inning and had his jersey shredded by security while he evaded capture. What’s with all the fans running on the field this year?

Up Next: vs. Royals, @ Tigers

Minnesota Twins: 8-10

There’s a reason the Tigers and Royals are tied for the top slot in the Central, and a big part of that reason is that both teams trampled the poor Twins. Minnesota needed a boost after being swept by the Indians, and were bolstered by winning their first game against the Tigers on Friday, but quickly fell in the next two, losing the series 2-1. The beating was almost literal at one point, with a bench-clearing brawl in Saturday’s game against Detroit when Miguel Sano objected to a pitch behind from Matthew Boyd.

The Twins continue to have a lot of things working in their favor. Max Kepler collected his second home run of the season, both incidentally off Tigers’ relief pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Eddie Rosario keeps hitting dingers, which helps.

In terms of pitching, starting pitcher Hector Santiago also continues to defy all expectations for the Twins by not being an unmitigated disaster on the mound. Too bad the same can’t be said of Kyle Gibson, who looked rough in his five innings of work against the Tigers, giving up seven runs.

Up Next: @ Rangers, @ Royals

Kansas City Royals: 7-11

Pro: They split a two game series against the San Francisco Giants.

Con: They were swept in a four game series against the Texas Rangers.

Was it really just two years ago the Royals won the World Series? Considering how much of that winning team is still in play today, it’s hard to understand why the Royals have been suffering so mightily this season. This week all their games were close-scores, and by no means blowouts, yet the Royals only managed on win out of six games.

The offense has been struggling. The bullpen has been mediocre at best. Sound familiar, Tigers fans? Royals’ manager Ned Yost has been playing around with the batting order, trying to find the magic touch to get the bats hot, but so far the team has been lukewarm at best, scoring no more than two runs in any of their games this past week. Jorge Bonifacio was a pleasant addition to the Royals wilting lineup, collecting his first big league home run in Saturday’s game.

Ian Kennedy continues to be a key piece of the Royals starting rotation, adding on to his already strong starts from the first two weeks of the season. Jason Hammel, unfortunately was not great, showing shaky command, something the Royals simply can’t afford from one of their starters.

Up Next: @ White Sox, vs. Twins