Second Thoughts Game #127: Indians 3, Angels 1
The Indians were able to complete a much needed three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday with a strong pitching performance from Justin Masterson and a great relief effort by Rich Hill, Cody Allen, and Chris Perez picking up his 20th save on the season.
Masterson was effectively wild in this game working his way through 6 2/3 innings despite walking five batters and having shaky control most of the night. Fortunately, the offense did just enough get Masterson his 14th win on the season.
The top of the order was particularly effective with Michael Bourn getting on base four times and Nick Swisher providing the big blow with a two-run homer in the third inning. That home run was Swisher’s fourth in his last ten days and his 15th on the season. Maybe the shoulder is starting to feel better?
With the sweep the Indians gain some retribution for their series loss against the Angels earlier in the month and end their road trip with a 6-3 record. The Indians will now head back home to face a Minnesota Twins team that’s just 1-6 in their last seven games.
With about six weeks remaining, things are getting tight in the AL playoff race and it is setting up to be a wild finish. Here is a look at some of the schedules for the teams the Indians will compete against for a playoff berth:
Detroit Tigers – The Tigers currently have the best record in the American League and sit 5.5 games ahead of the Indians in the division race. The Tigers appear to have the division crown locked up, but the Indians will have one last stand in Detroit for a three game series later this month. On the rest of the Tigers’ schedule is 16 games against teams that are above .500. An upcoming four game series against the Oakland Athletics would seem to help the Indians out one way or another.
Kansas City Royals – While the Royals will be playing one of the softer schedules down the stretch (16 games against teams with winning records) they’ve already fallen a bit behind in the division and wildcard races. However, the Royals do have the ability to make up some ground with six games left against the Indians and six more against the Tigers and can still impact the race of several teams that they’ll be playing down the stretch.
Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays play 21 more games against teams fighting for the playoffs. They’ll play every team left in the wildcard race beside the Indians before the end of the season. As the current leader in the wildcard (1.5 games ahead of Oakland and 4.0 games ahead of Cleveland), they control their own destiny in a sense. However, they’re only one game back of the division leading Red Sox with a three game set in early September still to be played. That means it could just as easily be the Red Sox that the Indians are chasing instead of the Rays. The Rays also have six games left against the Yankees and four left with Baltimore inside the division.
Baltimore Orioles – Baltimore has the hardest schedule left of the teams on this list. They still have 27 games left against teams above .500, including 18 against Boston, Tampa, and New York in their division. If the Orioles got on a roll they could completely turn the tides in the AL East and wildcard races, but the brutal schedule is more likely to work against them. If their inter-division schedule wasn’t hard enough, Baltimore also has series' against Oakland (August 23rd-25th) and Cleveland (September 2nd-4th) that will be important in sorting out the wildcard standings.
New York Yankees – The Yankees are currently 6.5 games out of the AL East and four games back in the wildcard. While trying to play catch-up they’ll have 21 more games against teams above .500, and similar to Baltimore the vast majority of those games will be played within the division. A brutal ten game stretch against Boston, Baltimore, and then Boston again from September 5th-15th will go a long way toward deciding the Yankees’ postseason fate. Right now the Yankees might be the hottest team in the wildcard standings so they’re by no means out of the race.
Oakland Athletics – Oakland plays a slightly less brutal schedule than the AL East teams listed above. Oakland only has 16 games left against teams that are above .500. The A’s have a seven game stretch from August 26th to September 1st where they’ll play Detroit and Tampa Bay in a series of games that’ll be of great interest to the Indians. Cleveland will have a chance to gain some ground in the division race, wildcard race, or both if they play well that week. Oakland also has two more series against the Texas Rangers to be played.
Texas Rangers - Ever since a late July sweep at the hands of the Indians, the Rangers have been on fire. They have only 15 games remaining against teams with a .500 record or better and even more importantly for the AL West crown - six games left against the Oakland Athletics. It would almost seem to benefit the Indians if one of the two teams won decisively, took control of the division, and knocked the other down in the wildcard standings. A four game set against Tampa Bay in the middle of September is the only other big series of note for the Rangers.
Cleveland Indians – Of the teams above, Cleveland has the easiest schedule remaining. The Indians only have 12 games remaining against teams above .500 (six of which are against Kansas City). With 14 of their last 17 games against the White Sox, Astros, and Twins, and their wildcard competitors battling each other in head-to-head contests the rest of the way, the Indians should be primed for a stretch run surge. The biggest stretch remaining is a three game set in Atlanta (August 27th-29th) and three games in Detroit (August 30th – September 1st) followed by three games at home against Baltimore (September 2nd-4th). Other than those nine games the only other team the Indians play down the stretch with a winning record is the Royals (September 9th-11th, September 16th-18th). Their schedule combined with that of their competitors puts the Indians in a good position to maneuver toward the front of the wildcard standings and grab a playoff spot this year.