A.L. Central: Tigers Struggling as Indians Take Over First
The Detroit Tigers seem to be able to win only when Max Scherzer is on the mound these days. Scherzer is 12-0 yet Detroit, despite having perhaps the best hitting combo in baseball (Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder) is now only five games over .500 at 43-38. Justin Verlander has been off as of late as Scherzer has taken over as the ace of the pitching staff. He leads the Tigers in wins, ERA (3.10) and strikeouts (131). Verlander is 8-5 with a 3.77 ERA, which is not bad at all, but not exactly Verlander-quality. In his last four starts, he is 0-1 and the Tigers are 1-3.
Anibal Sanchez is 6-5 with a 2.76 ERA, but in his last eight starts, the Tigers are 3-5. He has been on the disabled list since June 15th. Doug Fister is 6-5 with a 3.50 ERA. In his last 10 starts, the Tigers are 2-8. In that time his ERA has jumped up to 3.50 from 3.14. The bullpen has been a problem too as Detroit has finally pulled the plug on Jose Valverde as the team’s closer. Of course, lately Detroit hasn’t needed a closer as they have now lost six of seven.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians have taken over first place in the A. L. Central after taking four from the Chicago White Sox. Cleveland’s bats have been red hot in Chicago. They scored 28 runs in double-header sweep on Friday, 19-10 and 9-8. Then the pitching kicked in to complete the sweep with 4-3 and 4-0 wins on Saturday and Sunday. Justin Masterson ran his record to 10-6 with a complete game shutout on Sunday, giving up six hits and no walks.
The Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins took each other out over the weekend, splitting a four game series while the Indians were sweeping the Sox. Both teams losing two games to the Tribe means the Royals are now 4.5 back and the Twins, who lost to the New York Yankees on Monday, are 6.5 behind, The Royals have a chance to get back in the race as they start a three-game series at home with Cleveland on Tuesday.
We still like the Tigers to win this division. Their staff can be very good when all are performing up to par. When Fister, Sanchez and Verlander get hot, they will be among the best. Joaquin Benoit has the stuff to be a very good closer as well. We all know the Tigers will score runs with Cabrera and Fielder leading the way.
So the question is can the Royals and Indians compete for a Wild Card? The competition is very still in the American League with all those A.L. East teams and also the second place team between the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s. Lately, the Los Angeles Angels have been making noise as well. Right now, the Tigers are 3 games out of the A.L. Wild Card and the Royals are 7 games out. For a team in the Central to get one, they will need to pick up the pace.