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.


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

Photo: Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
St Marys-CA 64
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question