MLB Pennant Races: Ranking the Contenders' Schedules

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer ISeptember 13, 2010

MLB Pennant Races: Ranking the Contenders' Schedules

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    The playoff chase is in full gear and the divisions are hotter than ever. Teams like the Rangers, Rays, Giants, and Phillies are getting that much closer to wrapping up their respective divisions. But they can't look forward to October baseball just yet: First, they need to get through the final stretch on their schedules.

    Some of these teams have a harder path than others to a division title. Who has the toughest road down the stretch and who will be ho-humming it to October baseball?

    Here are the remainng schedules, ranked from hardest to easiest, for the following 10 contenders.

Hardest: Tampa Bay Rays

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    Tampa Bay tops the list with the hardest schedule coming down to the end of the season.

    They have eight road games remaining against the Yankees and Royals and 12 at home against the Yankees, Angels, Mariners, and Orioles.

    While the last three teams have been out of the playoffs for some time now, don't think they wouldn't love to play the role of "spoiler."

No 9: Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves have been trying their best to hold off the hot Philadelphia Phillies; their task gets harder with the schedule they have left.

    They have 18 games remaining in the 2010 season: Half are on the road against the Mets, Phillies, and Nationals, while the other half will be at home against the Nationals, Marlins, and Phillies.

    The reason I list them so high is the fact that they will have to face either Roy Halladay or Roy Oswalt at least once in their final two series. That's not easy for any team, no matter who they are.

No. 8: New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees are coming off a sweep by the AL West-leading Texas Rangers; a sweep that was not expected by many baseball fans, except for those Ranger fans in Arlington.

    They will finish the 2010 season with 12 of their last 19 games on the road against the Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, and the rival Red Sox. The other seven games at home will be against the Rays and Red Sox.

    Playing seven games against the Rays will be a tough challenge for the Bronx Bombers.

No. 7: San Francisco Giants

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    The San Francisco Giants have arguably been the hottest team in the National League, if not in all of baseball, over the last few weeks.

    They have erased a six-game deficit in the NL West to virtually tie the San Diego Padres for first with 18 games to go.

    Six of those remaining 18 games will be on the road: three against the Cubs and three against the Rockies, who have continued to find ways to win over the last 10 games.

    The remaining 12 home games will come against the Dodgers, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres. All four of those series will not be easy and this division may come down to the final weekend.

No. 6: Chicago White Sox

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    It may not be long before the White Sox are officially out of the playoff race. They are six games back in their division and 7.5 back in the wild card race.

    Their remaining schedule doesn't help matters.

    They have 19 games remaining on the 2010 schedule: six on the road against the A's and Angels, and 13 at home against the Twins, Tigers, Red Sox, and Indians.

    We may not have to wait long to find out their fate.

No. 5: Texas Rangers

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    The Texas Rangers finally got what they were expecting from left-hander Cliff Lee, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

    The Rangers are fresh off a sweep of the defending champion New York Yankees with two of those games coming in walk-off fashion.

    They have 19 games remaining on their schedule and their magic number is down to 12 for the AL West division title.

    Ten of those games will come on the road against the Mariners, Angels, and A's, while the other nine will be at home against the Tigers, Mariners, and Angels.

    While the Angels and A's are way out of the race, don't think they don't want to throw a few more punches before it's all said and done.

No. 4: Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have arguably the most talent on both sides of the ball and currently lead the National League East by a full game over the Atlanta Braves with 18 games left to play on their schedule.

    Nine of those 18 games will be at home against the Marlins, Nationals, and Braves, while the other nine will come at home against the Nationals, Braves, and Mets.

    The six games against the Braves will decide the race in the East; having Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt doesn't hurt.

No. 3: Colorado Rockies

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    The absolute best time to peak is right at the end of the season, and as usual, the Colorado Rockies are doing it once more.

    The Rockies continue to find ways to win, whether it's coming from behind or hitting walk-off home runs like Jason Giambi did yesterday.

    Their schedule sets up nicely to stay in the thick of the NL West race. They'll be the lion waiting in the tall weeds for the Giants or Padres to make a mistake.

    They'll have 10 games on the road against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals, and nine games at home against the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers.

    The Rockies have been almost impossible to beat at home, and having six games against the Giants and Padres sets them up nicely to steal away the division in the middle of the night.

No. 2: Cincinnati Reds

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    The Cincinnati Reds have close to the easiest schedule remaining before October baseball, but not quite.

    The only reason they come in second is because of two teams they still have to play down the stretch.

    They will have nine games at home against the Astros, Padres and Brewers while 10 games will come at home against the Diamondbacks, Astros, and Brewers.

    The Padres and Diamondbacks won't just roll over, and the Reds will face a very tough pitching staff in San Diego.

Easiest: Minnesota Twins

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    The Minnesota Twins may well have their division wrapped up by the end of this week.

    They have a six-game lead over their nearest competitor, the White Sox, and a 13.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers. Luckily for them, they have games remaining against both of those teams, as well as a few other teams that are out of their respective races.

    The Twins have nine games on the road against the White Sox, Tigers, and Royals, and 10 at home against the A's, Indians, and Blue Jays.