Who Has the Schedule Edge in Final Week of the 2013 MLB Playoff Chase?
Monday was a day for clinching in baseball.
The Detroit Tigers grabbed the American League Central crown on Sept. 23 while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds were each guaranteed playoff spots that have yet to be determined.
But even though the National League's postseason entries are decided, the AL Wild Card is still very much up in the air. The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians are currently leading the two wild-card slots, but the Texas Rangers trail both by just one game.
Regardless of roster talent, the wild cards will likely come down to each of these teams’ final-week schedules. Unlike the Rays, who are about to embark on a three-game series with the William Wallace-esque New York Yankees, the Indians are set to play two 60-plus win organizations.
Read on to see who has the schedule edge in the final week of the 2013 MLB playoff chase.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
At four games out, the New York Yankees (82-74) are a long shot to claim one of the wild-card spots, but that doesn’t mean they will simply lay down their swords.
Considering that the Tampa Bay Rays still have a three-game series over their division rivals, it’s unlikely the Yankees will roll out the B squad. In Game 1, the Rays will face Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.17 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.16 WHIP and 3.53 K/BB. While the Yankees will likely use Phil Hughes and perhaps David Huff in the other two games of the series, the Rays have a narrow chance of the sweep they’ll need.
To close the season, the Rays will attempt to fend off the Toronto Blue Jays (71-85). The Blue Jays, who many critics felt were the preseason favorites in the AL East, will undoubtedly play spoiler against the Rays. The Rays will face R.A. Dickey, who has pitched well in the second half with a 3.65 ERA (versus a 3.98 FIP) since the All-Star break.
The Rays will likely see a few pushover candidates in J.A. Happ and Todd Redmond, but like the Yankees, the Blue Jays will not be an easy team to sweep.
2. Texas Rangers
Technically, the Texas Rangers are the underdogs for the AL Wild Card.
Despite just being a game out, the Rangers have gone a mere 30-31 in the second half and have won only five games in September.
That said, the Rangers still have a fighting chance. The Rangers are set to face the league-worst Houston Astros (51-106) for two more games and will then take on the underachieving Los Angeles Angels (76-80).
The wild-card hopefuls will have to face the Angels' C.J. Wilson (3.36 ERA, 3.49 FIP), but should be able to handle Jerome Williams (4.55 ERA, 4.67 FIP) and Garrett Richards (4.09 ERA, 3.69 FIP) to close out the season.
1. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians are one of the biggest surprises of the 2013 season.
Despite dealing stud outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason, the Tribe is leading the Texas Rangers by one game in the wild-card race.
Whether you believe the Indians’ success is luck or not, their final week of the schedule is certainly the former. The Indians' final five games will be against the lowly Chicago White Sox (62-94) and Minnesota Twins (66-90), who are two of the bottom three squads in baseball.
The Indians will also square off against the following starting pitchers.
Even at the hand of Albers, who has just 54.1 major league innings to his name, the Indians have a legitimate chance at two clean sweeps.
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