Two Weeks to Go
The following comment was posted yesterday afternoon:
Given the fact that the Indians & ChiSox play half of their remaining games against each other, I find it hard to believe that the Wild Card will come from the AL Central. Obviously with the way the Tribe is playing vs the way the Sox are playing, I'll give the edge to the Indians. Plus, being an Indians fan, I'd love to see it.
I just don't see how the Yankees won't make the playoffs as the Wild Card at least, especially given their puff schedule. If Chicago and Cleveland play each other even, it helps the Yankees. If one beats up on the other, it helps the Yankees. The only real question I have now is whether they win the division or not. They're playing too well right now and they have too many people on the team who know how to win.
The problem is, when Cleveland is not playing the White Sox, they're playing seven games against the Royals and Devil Rays. That's puff enough for anybody.
If you look at likely results, I see the Indians going 4-2 vs. Chicago, 3-1 vs. Kansas City and 2-1 vs. Tampa Bay for a 9-4 finish. I suspect the Yankees will go 6-2 vs. Baltimore, 2-1 vs. Toronto and 1-2 vs. Boston for a 9-5 finish. Since the White Sox magic number against the Yankees is 10, they just need to pick up three more wins vs. Minnesota and Detroit in this scenario to assure themselves of a playoff berth. I would not be at all surprised to see the Indians take the division and the White Sox win the Wild Card at this point.
As for knowing how to win, the Indians having the best record in the majors since 7/31/2005 (inclusive), four games better than the Yankees. It's my guess Cleveland figured out how to win at this point.
That doesn't mean the Yankees won't make the playoffs. They still have a shot at the AL East. The Red Sox get three games at Tampa Bay, so their schedule is a bit easier than the Yankees. They should be able to win each of their last four series, giving them the title. Of course, neither of these teams is as good as they were last year. There's questionable pitching on both sides. It's hard to know which Schilling or Wells shows up for any given start. Likewise with Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina for the Yankees. They Red Sox playing the last week at home works very much in their favor, however.
Oakland and LAnaheim play four games early next week. Each has a series outside the division, with the Angels drawing the Devil Rays and the Athletics the Twins. I'm not crazy about either of these teams at this point. The Angels do have six games against the Rangers, and given LAnaheim's lack of offense, the Rangers could take a few of those contests. The edge goes to the Angels, simply due to their two game lead.
The Braves are five games up with just 12 to play. They're in a good spot, but they do play nine games against the Marlins and the Phillies. Although it feels like Atlanta is slipping in this race, they still have the best record in the NL East in September, one game better than the Marlins and Phillies.
The real action in the NL is the Wild Card. Houston took control of the race with their victory and the Phillies defeat. Houston now gets four games against the Pirates, with Clemens, Pettitte and Oswalt starting the first three games. They do have seven vs. the Cubs, however. They'll see Prior, Zambrano and Maddux at some point, so a few more times shutout may be in the Astros future as well. Taking five out of seven from the Phillies and Marlins gave them a leg up, and their schedule gives them no reason to give up that lead in the fortnight remaining.