In AL Central, a three-team race

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 6:35 AM

The Tigers are the ones to watch, but the White Sox are still in first place and the Indians still have a better record.

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The Twins' Ben Revere safely slid under the tag of Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera earlier this month.

Photo: Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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Jim Leyland lay shirtless on the blue couch in his Comerica Park office last week as he fielded questions about his team's wayward course at midseason. The Tigers manager often looks like he has just gotten up from a nap during his pregame media session, but by first pitch, intensity is steaming from his ears.

His posture on this day, however, seemed appropriate. The Tigers have been lying down all season. After adding Prince Fielder to join Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera on a talent-laden roster, the Tigers were consensus picks to run away with their second consecutive American League Central title. But as Leyland spoke, Detroit was still below .500.

"I feel the same way about my team as I did when we started," Leyland said. "I like my team a lot. ... We've survived. That's what we've done so far is survived. We haven't gotten on that total positive run that I think we'll get on. So hopefully we've got something to look forward to, but you've gotta do it. No guarantees."

The Tigers (44-42) went on to win their final five games before the All-Star break. As the second half opens Friday, they remain the team to watch in the AL Central, but don't try telling that to the first-place White Sox (47-38) or second-place Indians (44-41). The Royals and Twins have double-digit deficits, and they have to be kicking themselves, because with halfway decent starting pitching, they would be right in the scrum. Instead, Kansas City has the second-worst starting pitching ERA in the American League at 5.16, and the Twins are last at 5.68.

Cleveland All-Star closer Chris Perez said it's a three-team race for the division title among the White Sox, Indians and Tigers. He believes the division will have just one playoff team, even with an extra wild-card spot this year.

The Orioles and Angels would be the two wild-card winners if the postseason opened today. The Indians and Tigers are among six other AL teams within 2 1/2 games of a wild-card spot, but Perez insists he won't be paying attention to those standings.

"We're going to have to win the Central," he said. "The second wild card is coming out of the AL East. That's the superior division in our league."

Logic says Cleveland will fade. The Indians are 18-23 since May 25 and have given up 29 more runs than they have scored for the season. For comparison, Chicago's run differential is plus-63, Detroit's is plus-6, and the Twins' is a major league-worst minus-87.

The White Sox have been one of baseball's biggest surprises under first-year manager Robin Ventura. After finishing 79-83 last year in their final season under Ozzie Guillen, they took off this May with 13 victories in 14 games.

The team leveled off for a while, but then General Manager Kenny Williams acquired Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox in a trade that already looks like a steal, especially because Cleveland also tried getting Youkilis. Boston agreed to pay most of Youkilis' remaining salary, and Chicago didn't have to part with any of its best prospects.

Youkilis batted .347 with three homers and 14 RBI in his first 15 games for Chicago, leading the charge last week when the White Sox swept a three-game series from Texas.

"If I was a fan of the [White Sox], I'd be very pumped about the stuff going on here,'' first baseman Paul Konerko said. "Not only the attitude but getting so many answers here as we go along."

Konerko was one of four All-Stars for the White Sox, joining Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Chris Sale. With a 2.85 ERA, Peavy is having his best season since 2008, and Sale has rivaled Verlander as the toughest pitcher in the division, going 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA.

"He's tough," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said of Sale, a 6-6 lefthander. "I've compared the way his ball comes in to Randy Johnson. I was able to face Randy a couple times before he retired, and [Sale's] got a great angle coming in like that. He throws hard, and he's got great movement on his pitches. ... I kind of wish he was in a different division."

Sale and Verlander could have some important showdowns coming. The White Sox and Tigers have split eight games so far and still have three series remaining, including two with games in September.

Leyland better hope his team stays off its back the rest of the way.

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NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Baltimore 2
Philadelphia 6 Top 9th Inning
NY Mets 2
Miami 4 Top 9th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Bottom 8th Inning
Tampa Bay 7
Cleveland 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 5 Bottom 8th Inning
Chicago WSox 0
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Arizona 0
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 5th Inning
St. Louis 1
Los Angeles 0 Top 5th Inning
San Diego 1
Milwaukee 0 Top 4th Inning
San Francisco 0
Oakland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
LA Angels 0
Washington 2 Top 3rd Inning
Seattle 0
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 3 4th Qtr
(4) Oklahoma 41
Stephen F Austin 16 4th Qtr
(20) Kansas State 42
Fresno State 13 3rd Qtr 8:23
(15) USC 38
Southern Miss 0 3rd Qtr 8:27
Miss State 35
Texas-El Paso 24 3rd Qtr
New Mexico 7
North Texas 0 3rd Qtr 12:20
Texas 21
(1) Florida State 17 3rd Qtr
Oklahoma State 10
(14) Wisconsin 10 1st Qtr 4:47
(13) LSU 7
Idaho 0 Delayed 14:50
Florida 0
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 2nd Half 44:55
Chicago 0
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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