Two weeks into the season, and everything remains convoluted in the AL Central. Up is down, white is black, and the Royals are decent. Let’s make a run-through of the standings from top to bottom:
Chicago White Sox (8–5): The Sox are using the same combination so far this season that led to their World Series title in 2005: pitching and the long ball. Gavin Floyd was effectively wild on a frigid Saturday afternoon, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tigers before combining with a couple of relievers on a two-hit shutout. A.J. Pierzynski is still tearing things up to the tune of a .412 batting average and .737 slugging percentage, both of which lead the AL. Joe Crede has also come back from back surgery to get off to a great start, hitting two grand slams already this season.
Kansas City Royals (8–6): Kansas City has overcome an anemic offense to post an 8-6 mark with fantastic starting pitching, at least from two of their starters. Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke are a combined 6-0 with ERA’s under 1.00, while the rest of the starting staff is 1–6 with a 5.86 ERA. Bannister and Greinke pitched back-to-back complete games earlier this week. And, in case you missed it, Kansas City brought back the powder blue jerseys!
Minnesota Twins (6–8): The Twins’ offense is finally waking up, but that has coincided with the complete collapse of their bullpen. On Tuesday, the Twins had leads of 5–0 and 9–4 over the Tigers. Unfortunately, Detroit abused Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek to the tune of seven runs in the seventh and eighth on the way to an 11–9 victory. Again on Wednesday, Minnesota had a late lead (this time, 4–3 in the eighth) before Jesse Crain gave up three runs and sent the Twins to a 6–5 defeat. When the Tigers look back on their season, I’ll bet they see this series as a turning point for their lineup.
Cleveland Indians (5–9): Speaking of bullpen collapses, let’s move on to Cleveland. Joe Borowski may have done the club a favor by going down with a strained triceps after a disastrous outing against Boston on Tuesday night. Rafael Betancourt, while struggling in his own right so far this season, will take over the closer role in Borowski’s absence. As good as Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona have been so far, C.C. Sabathia has canceled that out with batting-practice worthy performances (0-2 in 3 starts with a 11.57 ERA). The team as a whole ranks 13th in the American League with a 4.76 ERA, and their lineup hasn’t hit well enough yet (last in the AL in batting average and slugging percentage) to overcome. We’ll see where this goes.
Detroit Tigers (4–10): We’ll see what happens now that the Twins helped breathe life into the Tigers’ offense. As poor as they’ve played at bat and in the field so far, it’s still plenty early enough to turn things around. Jim Leyland finally lost his cool behind closed doors following an 11-0 drubbing from the White Sox Sunday, and whether or not it was a direct result, his team has been hitting since then.