Four games out of the second American League wild card as the weekend nears, the Indians’ best formula for reaching the postseason again is to take care of business themselves. They’ll have to do that anyway, but they also need some help.
The AL wild-card race is still full of uncertainty, as it’s been most of the season, and plenty can change even though only about 10 games remain for each team.
Of the seven teams realistically involved in the race for those two wild card spots, the Detroit Tigers have the easiest schedule. But the Tigers, Indians or Kansas City Royals will win the AL Central, narrowing the list of wild card contenders to six.
After the Tigers, who has the softest schedule remaining? The Indians. Here’s the strength of schedule breakdown:
The Blue Jays have by far the toughest road with a stingy schedule and the biggest deficit from which to climb. While the A’s have an easy schedule too and are ahead of the Indians, they’ve toiled through the second half and were just swept by the hapless Rangers.
Besides the Indians’ own, Detroit’s series beginning with Kansas City Friday night is probably the most pivotal for them. The Tigers are 11-5 against the Royals this season. That could turn out to be a positive for the Tribe, not in relation to the division but one of those wild card spots.
Say Detroit sweeps Kansas City – the Royals fall down in the standings right as they get set to take on the Indians. While the Tigers would then be in firm control of the division, the wild card would open up a little more.
Seattle and Oakland would still be in play for the Indians to catapult but they could realistically control their fate in bypassing the Royals.
The Indians finish out the regular season at Minnesota (three games), and then home against Kansas City (three and the completion of a suspended game the Indians are leading) and Tampa Bay (two). Here are the Indians’ records against those teams:
Here are Seattle’s records against its remaining opponents (and how many games will be played against each):
– Astros (3): 9-7
– Blue Jays (4): 3-0
– Angels (3): 9-7
For the A’s:
– Phillies (3): 0-0
– Angels (3): 8-8
– Rangers (3): 7-8
For the Royals:
– Tigers (3): 5-11
– Indians (3): 7-9
– White Sox (4): 10-5
For the Tigers:
– Royals (3): 11-5
– White Sox (3): 8-8
– Twins (4): 7-8
So what are the takeaways here? On paper, the Mariners look to be in good position based on how they’ve played the teams they have left — but seven of those final 10 games are on the road. Right now, Felix Hernandez is scheduled to pitch for them on the final day of the season at home against the Angels — that’s a major plus.
Oakland is very much an unknown quantity — they haven’t played the Phillies yet this season and then have to take on the best team in baseball, followed by a team they should beat but to whom they just lost three straight.
The Tigers and Royals each have one opponent against whom they’ve thrived. Surprisingly, though, Detroit hasn’t been authoritative against the Twins and they’ve got their final four against them.
This could get really interesting in the season’s final week and a half.
All of these numbers are awesome — if the Indians win. That’s the pre-requisite. We know that and the Tribe does too. Should that happen, hope is still alive.