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AL Central: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not

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Since we’ve seen things starting to get a little too close for comfort, here’s what is necessary for the Chicago White Sox to keep their division lead

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates
Yasmani Grandal has been clutch so far in the month of June, while providing a much-needed offensive boost.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If your life revolves around baseball like mine, you may be bored in a week where the Chicago White Sox had two off-days. The South Siders will play 13 straight games before their next break, so here are some updates on the American League Central and how the White Sox can continue to grow their lead.

Are the White Sox hot right now? Some could say no, since they have won just one of their last six games. Can they get hot? The answer is yes, as we have seen before.

Every month, this team seems to struggle with injuries, but we have seen extreme adversity and depth to get to where they are now. Nick Madrigal recently had season-ending surgery on his hamstring, while Adam Engel was placed on the injury list, again. Michael Kopech continues to be sidelined, as do Billy Hamilton and Adam Eaton. The good news, even through all of these injuries, is that this team still finds a way to be in first place.

When it comes to some positives, Eloy Jiménez was recently cleared to resume baseball activities. Also, Yermín Mercedes, who has been struggling as of late, delivered a single in a pinch-hit opportunity against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which may turn things back around for him.

The star of the team this month has been Yasmani Grandal, who has been supplying the dose of offense that the team needs. Grandal has been clutch, between his walk-off single against the Tampa Bay Rays, his pinch-hit three run home run in Pittsburgh, and his go-ahead, two-run double against the Pirates. In order for this offense to start getting back on track, it is highly important that the other leaders of this team like Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, and José Abreu start to hit the ball out the ballpark and get on base more consistently. If another one of those guys starts to get hot at the plate, it can set the tone for the entire team. The White Sox face the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers coming up.

Is the Cleveland Baseball Team hot right now? Yes. Not many people expected Cleveland to be as good as they are this far into the season, but Terry Francona has done a great job with the ball club. Cleveland is 12-7 in the month of June, and are currently just two games back of the White Sox for first place. They are doing it without some of their best starting pitchers as Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac are all currently out due to injuries. José Ramírez and Josh Naylor have been providing offensive power that has helped them tremendously. Cleveland will have a very hard schedule in July, playing teams like the Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Oakland Athletics. It will be important to see how they can play against these teams that are well above .500 and if they can sustain a winning record, even with their rotation being flawed.

Are the Kansas City Royals hot right now? No. The team sits 10 12 games back of first place in the division, and have gone 7-14 so far in June after their hot start to the season. The Royals continue to struggle with their starting pitching, and have recently had issues scoring runs. They have been playing some very talented teams including the Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees, but their struggles were present far before their rough schedule. The current standout star for the Royals is Salvador Perez, who is the current leader for American League catchers in the All-Star voting. Perez has given the fans something to be excited for, in a year where most people know that this team isn’t going to be playing October baseball. For the month of June, he has eight home runs, 25 hits and a very solid .305 average. Although we all pretty much know that this team isn’t that much of a threat in the division, you never know if they will get hot again, as they did at the beginning of the season.

Are the Detroit Tigers hot right now? Meh. They have been average as of recently, at 10-11 so far in the month of June. The South Siders still seem to win almost every game they play against them, but Detroit ahs been able to put together a decent lineup this year even through the rebuild. Their biggest issue seems to be finding substantial bullpen arms and getting quality outings from their starters. Jonathan Schoop has been a tone-setter for this team and has been better than expected. In June alone, he has 10 home runs, 29 hits, and a .349 average. The Tigers are not a playoff team, but they have been managing to stay out of last place at least, so hey, props to them.

Are the Minnesota Twins hot right now? Maybe? No? Hard to tell? Since they are a last-place team, it has been confusing as to what they are actually capable of, but they are 5-2 in their last seven games. The scary thing about the Twins is that they can get hot with a healthy lineup, and may be able to move their way up in the standings if they do so. These next few weeks will be a big factor in if they go into the All-Star break as buyers or sellers. Although Max Kepler is back in the lineup, Byron Buxton received more bad news after less than two games back from his previous injury getting his hand broken by a pitch, but no surgery is required. Their bullpen continues to underperform, as does their starting pitching, which has cost them many games. They will be at Guaranteed Rate Field starting early next week, and they will be able to see how they play against the division leaders after their current series against Cleveland.