DETROIT (AP) At this time last year, the Chicago White Sox were 6 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central.
So although Chicago has played poorly of late, the White Sox are still in a better position than they were in 2015. Their own outlook is more promising – and it looks like there may not be a dominant team in their division like there was last year.
Cleveland has won five in a row and leads the Central at 31-24 – which is the worst record of any division leader at the moment. Only 3 1/2 games separate the Indians from fourth-place Detroit, with Kansas City and Chicago in between.
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''I think all four teams to this point of the season have played really, really good baseball at one point, and at times they've played really, really bad baseball,'' White Sox catcher Alex Avila said. ''My best guess throughout the course of the season is that everybody will be within a few games of each other and whatever team will kind of find that consistency toward the end of the season will be the one that comes out of it.''
Kansas City won the division by 12 games last year en route to a World Series title. Teams like the Tigers were left essentially playing for a wild card – and Detroit actually became a seller at the trade deadline.
Now the Royals are dealing with injuries to Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas. If the top four teams in the division are able to stay within striking distance of each other for a while, they all may want to add talent at the deadline, sensing opportunity.
The White Sox have lost 18 of their last 24 but are still only three games out of first place. On Saturday, they added James Shields to their starting rotation in a trade, leaving no doubt about how they feel about their chances to contend for a postseason spot.
''He's proven that he can pitch deep into games and give you quality innings and quality starts, and that's very, very important over the course of the season,'' Avila said.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
BEYOND THEIR YEARS
When a big-market team with lots of money starts developing young, cost-controlled standouts, that's a scary thought for the rest of baseball. It's happened in the National League with the Chicago Cubs, and now the Boston Red Sox appear to have a promising future in the AL. Boston is nine games over .500 and has gotten impressive contributions from Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, neither of whom turns 24 until October.
Jeanmar Gomez (18), Alex Colome (15), Jeremy Jeffress (15) and Jake McGee (14) all have more saves so far than Craig Kimbrel (13) and Trevor Rosenthal (10).
Jordan Zimmermann's fantasy stats have been outstanding so far, but a word of caution about the Detroit right-hander: He's averaging a career-low 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Betts' three-homer game against Baltimore on Tuesday lifted the Red Sox to a 6-2 victory. He followed that up with two more home runs the next day – although in that game Wednesday, the Orioles managed to win 13-9 despite being outhomered 5-0.
Then in the series finale Thursday, Baltimore went deep seven times in a 12-7 victory.
So while Betts had the memorable individual performance, the Orioles were able to salvage a split of that four-game series.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister