This weekend was one for many big AL Central battles, as the Twins took on the Indians, and the White Sox faced off against the Royals. The Tigers took on the Reds for the second time this year, only this time it was in Detroit instead of Cincinnati. Not surprisingly, the Central got pretty shook up over the weekend, and we have a new team on the top of the Central for this upcoming week.
1. Minnesota Twins (7-2)(+22 run differential)
Oh man. I critiqued the Twins pitching last week and they came on like gangbusters this weekend. The Twins took three out of four from Cleveland in Minneapolis, with the Indians only scoring four runs total over the four-game slate. The series win put the Twins on top of the AL Central as of Sunday night, as they currently lead the division by two games. Kenta Maeda continues to be a huge pickup for the Twins, as he went six innings and struck out six while shutting out the Indians on Saturday. With Homer Bailey going on the DL, the Twins will need Maeda and the rest of the rotation to step up for the next couple of weeks in his absence, but the solid performance of Randy Dobnak as well as their deep bullpen should give the Twins hope that they will be fine in his absence. The offense continues to be potent, though they will have their ups and downs, as evidenced by Miguel Sano who hit two home runs on Saturday only to go without a hit on Sunday.
Next series: Against Pittsburgh, August 3rd.
2. Chicago White Sox (5-4) (+5 run differential)
After losing their first two series of the season to both the Twins and the Indians, the White Sox went on the road to Kansas City and thoroughly trounced the Royals over the weekend series. The White Sox swept the series, led primarily by their offense, as they outscored the Royals 23-to-9 over the three-game set. The White Sox pitching was good, though not spectacular, but it didn’t need to be thanks to a potent lineup. Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Yasmani Grandal all flourished in the series, as they showed the Central, as well as all of Major League Baseball, why they were considered a dark horse to win the Central at the beginning of the year. I’m not totally sold on their pitching, but 1-9, this may be the best overall lineup in the Central, and that should make the Twins nervous, especially if their rotation continues to get hurt by injuries.
Next Series: At Milwaukee, August 3rd
3. Cleveland Indians (5-5) (+1 run differential)
Here’s the good news: Shane Bieber is really good. In the Indians’ lone win over the Twins, Bieber continued to demonstrate why he is a Cy Young candidate this year, as he struck out 13 batters over eight innings of work. Hence, Bieber didn’t just benefit from a weak Royals lineup on Opening Day (where he had another high-strikeout day), but he proved against the Twins that he is a legitimate pitcher who may have the best strikeout stuff in the American League (I mean it’s not easy to shut down the “Bomba Squad”). So that’s what is going for the Indians. The bad news? Their lineup might actually be a question mark. While Jose Ramirez is carrying the lineup in the two spot (.984 OPS) and Cesar Hernandez is proving to be a great pickup (.303 average), Francisco Lindor continues to struggle (.225 average) as does Carlos and Domingo Santana (.188 and .158 averages, respectively). The White Sox and Twins have two potent lineups that only got better over the weekend. If the Indians want to stay in the playoff hunt, they will need more production from Lindor and the Santanas in the middle of the lineup.
Next Series: At Cincinnati, August 3rd.
4. Detroit Tigers (5-5) (-11 run differential)
After splitting a four-game series against the Royals at Comerica Park, the Tigers got off to a good start at home against the Reds by winning the first game of the their three-game series against Cincinnati, 7-2. However, August has not been kind: their Saturday game got rained out, and in a doubleheader on Sunday, the Tigers got swept and outscored 8-3 over the two-game slate, which included Trevor Bauer firing a shutout in Game 2 (both games were only seven innings due to the new rule for doubleheaders). The Tigers are an interesting team: they have some firepower with CJ Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Cameron Maybin, and of course, Miguel Cabrera. But at the end of the day, they’re not a good team overall. Their starting pitching is pretty inconsistent (even with Matt Boyd), and while Joe Jimenez is decent as a closer, the pen is much like the Royals: rife with veterans looking to prove themselves and young, unproven fireball throwers. The Tigers will put Detroit fans on a roller coaster this season, and they may certainly be better than the train wreck they were a season ago. That being said, it’s hard to to imagine that things will get much better for the Tigers after this weekend.
Next series: Against St. Louis, August 4th
5. Kansas City Royals (3-7) (-14 run differential)
The Royals fail to get out of the basement of the Central for a second straight week, and it’s hard to justify that they belong anywhere else after getting swept at Kauffman Stadium by the rival White Sox. The Royals have had a lot of hard luck to start the year: losing your No. 2-No. 4 starters and your starting right fielder due to COVID or injury within the first week doesn’t make competing any easier, especially considering the Royals were heavy underdogs to begin with. However, the Royals were 3-4 going into the White Sox series, and were utterly destroyed in every facet of the game. The Royals pitchers, including their bullpen, which had been dependable in the first two series, imploded against a stellar White Sox lineup, and their defense continued their struggles at home, as they currently lead the league in errors with 14, as of Monday. While Whit Merrifield continues to do his thing (people are really going to be stocking up on Pepsi from Price Chopper this year), and Jorge Soler continues to be productive, the rest of the Royals lineup has struggled to find consistency. Certain Royals hitters will have hot nights, while other Royals go on cold streaks, much to the dismay of the Royals as a whole. Mediocre hitting and questionable pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen, won’t help the Royals overtake not just the Tigers, but well…anyone in the Central. On a positive note, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, two of their young studs, look good, but even then, they’ll have a hard time finding wins in 2020 if the Royals lineup and defense don’t clean it up starting next week.
Next series: At Chicago (Cubs), August 3rd