Thursday’s off day comes at a perfect time for the Cleveland Indians – they get a chance to recuperate from a long west coast trip, where they won six out of nine games, including a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.
The off day also provides an opportunity to sit back and reassess the Indians playoff chances.
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With 35 games remaining, the Indians are 5.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, and 2.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the final wildcard spot. As we finish August and roll into September, most of the games remaining on each of the playoff contender’s schedules will be divisional matchups.
Check out the remaining schedules for each of the AL playoff contenders:
Boston Red Sox: @ Dodgers (3), Orioles (3), White Sox (3), Tigers (3), @ Yankees (4), @ Rays (3), Yankees (3), Orioles (3), Blue Jays (3), @ Rockies (2), @ Orioles (3)
Baltimore Orioles: A’s (3), @ Red Sox (3), @ Yankees (3), @ Indians (3), White Sox (4), Yankees (4), @ Blue Jays (3), @ Red Sox (3), @ Rays (4), Blue Jays (3), Red Sox (3)
Tampa Bay Rays: Yankees (3), @ Royals (1), Angels (3), @ A’s (3), @ Angels (4), @ Mariners (3), Red Sox (3), @ Twins (3), Rangers (4), Orioles (4), @ Yankees (3), @ Blue Jays (3)
NY Yankees: Blue Jays (1), @ Rays (3), @ Blue Jays (3), Orioles (3), White Sox (3), Red Sox (4), @ Orioles (4), @ Red Sox (3), @ Blue Jays (3), Giants (3), Rays (3), @ Astros (3)
In a nutshell, the four teams from the AL East that are in playoff consideration are going to be in a dogfight and hopefully beating up on each other. The four teams outside of the division, the Tigers, Indians, Rangers and Athletics, could take advantage of this down the stretch.
More good news for the Indians – Check out the winning percentage of the remaining opponents for each team:
Red Sox – .525
Orioles – .525
Rays – .507
Yankees – .500
Athletics – .490
Rangers – .485
Tigers – .482
Indians – .472
The difference between the Red Sox’ .525 opponent winning percentage and the Indians’ .472 opponent winning percentage is significant. Each of the contending teams have eleven series remaining, but the Red Sox and Orioles have a staggering eight series against playoff contenders, the Rays have seven, the Yankees have six, and the Rangers and Athletics each have five.
As for the Indians and Tigers?
They each have just three series left against teams in playoff contention.
Bottom line, when comparing the schedules of the remaining opponents for all the playoff contenders, the Indians and Tigers have a decided advantage.
Going a step further for the Indians and Tigers, neither team is scheduled to play a contender after September 4th. In the final 23 games for the Indians and 22 games for the Tigers they will be playing the White Sox, Twins, Royals, Astros and Marlins while AL East teams square off against each other almost every night.
One thing is for certain – this wildcard race should have a wild finish. Just when one team looks to be pulling away, they could quickly fall back because of a tough stretch of games. Even some of those weaker teams could present problems depending on how the starting pitching shakes out for the series. For example, the Mets and Marlins would be much tougher if Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez pitch.
If the Tigers and Indians continue to take care of business, it could be a simple process of the AL East eliminating each other. Even though their lead is only at 5.5 games, the Tigers should be a shoe-in for a playoff spot and probably will hold onto the AL Central title based on their weak schedule. That is, unless the Indians were to sweep them in Detroit over Labor Day weekend.
But if the Indians are able to win their series this weekend with the Twins and then tread water against the Braves, Tigers and Orioles the next week going 4-5 or 5-4, then it sets them up well for a strong finish against some much weaker opponents. The Indians may be hard pressed to catch the Tigers, but they are without a doubt right in the wildcard mix.