No one wants to win the AL Central

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The White Sox lost their fifth in a row Sunday to the Angels, giving the Tigers a chance to move into a tie for first place in the AL Central even after they were routed by the Twins in the first game of a doubleheader. How did they respond? By losing the nightcap 2-1 in 10 innings.

Here are the second-half records of the AL Central teams:

Tigers: 36-30 – .545
White Sox: 34-33 – .507
Royals: 33-35 – .485
Twins: 28-40 – .412
Indians: 19-49 – .279

And the September records:

Royals: 11-11
Twins: 11-11
Tigers: 10-11
White Sox: 9-12
Indians: 8-13

The White Sox have received plenty of positive press for their surprising success under first-time manager Robin Ventura, but they’re probably the AL’s seventh or eighth best team.

As for the Tigers, well, they’ve been a disappointment pretty much all year long. They did play better ball in July and August, but they’ve stumbled again of late and they’d be on the verge of being ousted from the race if the White Sox hadn’t forgotten how to hit over the last week.

Both teams have 10 games left. The White Sox get the Indians for four and the Rays for three at home before finishing with three in Cleveland. The Tigers play four at home against the Royals and then finish on the road with three in Minnesota and three in Kansas City.

That’d seem to be advantage Chicago. Cleveland has played the worse of all of those teams, and the White Sox have the three extra home games. Still, with the way things have gone of late, it’s doubtful either team will run away with it.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.