Into the home stretch

Current Conditions:

Well, I never commented on Sunday’s loss.   There wasn’t a whole lot to say, except that Wakefield has become a concern.  Will Wakefield be moved to long relief for the playoffs?  Will the final starts by Wakefield and Lester help determine who’s the 4th starter in the playoffs?  Only Francona knows.

The division

The Red Sox got another day off, while the Yankees had to play again.  The 2 Blue Jays pitchers who pitched the last 2 games against the Yankees were 2 of the pitchers who’d shut down the Red Sox last week.  While McGowan wasn’t able to repeat his performance, Litsch was, so at least Toronto didn’t make the difference too great. 

This puts the Yankees 2 games back with 6 to go.  A tie will go to the Yankees, since they won the season series, 10 to 8.

That gives the Red Sox a 1 game "cushion" with 6 to go.  They can only afford to be one game worse than the Yankees the rest of the way.  Most likely, they’ll have at least the same record.  Why?

The Red Sox have 6 home games, after a day of rest.  All the games are against non-division teams (thus not as used to Fenway) playing below .500 ball.  If the Red Sox give their best, they’ll be at least 4-2 this week.  The Yankees are playing 6 games on the road in Tampa Bay and Baltimore, 2 division rivals who are used to the Yankees and have played well against them this year.  Each team should be able to win at least 1 of 3 in their home parks against the Yankees, putting the Yankees at no better than 4-2.  Even with a 1 game surprise either way, the Red Sox still win the division.

Off to the Races

But don’t forget, there’s the race for best record, which is just as important.  In fact, this year, the team with the best record gets to choose their playoff format (7 days or 8 days), so it’s even more important!  All 3 division leaders have 92 wins, but Cleveland is 1 better in the loss column than Boston, and the Angels are 1 worse.   

Forecast:

Cleveland plays 7 road games in 6 days, with a double-header in Seattle on Wednesday.  They’ll likely play, and pitch, a lot of minor leaguers in the double-header, so expect at least one loss there.  Their opponents are Seattle (good) and KC (bad).  Cleveland is likely to finish 4-3 over the last week, as a result. 

The Angels only have to play 5 road games in 6 days, with an off day Thursday.  They have 2 more in Texas (below average) then they go to Seattle (good).   The Angels are likely to be 3-2 in that stretch. 

Given that the Red Sox have all home games remaining, and their 3 playoff rivals have all road games remaining, the Red Sox are in good position to get back to the top record in the league.  My projections have the Sox tied with Cleveland, with the Angels 1 back and the Yankees 2 back.  A tie should go to the Sox, since they have a 5-2 record vs. Cleveland this year.

Parity?

The best record in all of baseball will be 96 or 97 wins this year.  That’s got to be a low point for the recent past, not counting strike years.

Cleveland?

If, at the all-star break, you had asked a panel of baseball experts who would have the best record in baseball with one week to go in the season, most would have picked the Red Sox, Tigers, or Angels, even though the Indians not far behind the Tigers and Angels at that point. 

But Cleveland just kept playing consistently well while the other teams had occasional small slumps, and now Cleveland is on top.

Let’s hope it doesn’t last to the end of the season!

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