Analyzing the September schedules for all American League Wild Card contenders - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Analyzing the September schedules for all American League Wild Card contenders

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles’ 2017 season hasn’t been pretty. But here they are, preparing to play meaningful games in September for the sixth consecutive year.

The Orioles are one of eight teams currently fighting for two American League Wild Card berths. In a mediocre field of teams, none has really risen to the occasion and grabbed hold of a spot. At this point, it’s anyone’s ballgame. A team that rips off a hot streak can force its way into the postseason, while a team that slips into a losing skid can sink its chances for good.

Let’s take a look at the eight wild card contenders and what the September schedule – we’re including the season finale Oct. 1 as part of September — has in store for each.

NEW YORK YANKEES (71-62, 1 game ahead for first wild card)

Games remaining: 29

Home: 17

Away: 12

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 13

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 16

The Yankees have more opportunity to control their own destiny than any other team in the race. Not only do they currently hold the top wild card spot, but almost all of their September games are against their fellow wild card contenders. They have seven games against the Orioles, six against Tampa Bay, three apiece against Texas and Minnesota, and even a makeup game against Kansas City. The Yankees don’t have to rely on other teams to knock out their competition — they can do it themselves, if they’re up to the challenge.

In addition, the final 2 1/2 weeks of the Yankees’ schedule is extremely home-heavy, and they are 38-26 at Yankee Stadium. They play 14 of their final 17 games in the Bronx, with their only road series a three-game set against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays. So, if the Yankees fail to make the playoffs, they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

MINNESOTA TWINS (70-63, leading second wild card)

Games remaining: 29

Home: 12

Away: 17

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 6

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 23

Talk about a friendly schedule. Incredibly, only six of the Twins’ 29 September games are against teams that currently have winning records. And one of those series is a final-week matchup against the first-place Cleveland Indians, who by that point might be resting their regulars to prepare for the playoffs.

The Twins will spend much of September away from Target Field, but that actually works in their favor, too — they have a better record on the road (36-28) than at home (34-35) this season. So, the schedule lines up well for the surprising Twins to stay in the thick of the wild card race to the end.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (69-65, 1 ½ games behind)

Games remaining: 28

Home: 12

Away: 16

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 9

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 19

The Angels, who play most of their September schedule against fellow AL West teams, have plenty of opportunities to knock out two of their wild card competitors. The Angels have six games apiece versus Texas and Seattle, and could help bury those teams if they dominate those series. So ,while the Angels don’t completely control their own destiny, they can certainly make life easier for themselves.

The Angels also have seven remaining games against two of the three worst teams in the AL, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics, albeit on the road. On the other hand, they’ll also have to play nine against division leaders Houston (six) and Cleveland (three)

ORIOLES (68-66, 2 ½ games behind)

Games remaining: 28

Home: 13

Away: 15

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 13

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 15

The Orioles face a quirk in their September schedule with an oddly timed, two-game interleague series in Pittsburgh during the final week of the season. I’m sure the Orioles are just thrilled to have to put pitchers in their lineup for crucial games down the stretch. (That was sarcasm.)

Seven of the Orioles’ final nine games are against Tampa Bay, with that Pirates series sandwiched in between. If the Rays are eliminated early in September and have nothing to play for in the final week, that would work to the Orioles’ benefit.

The Orioles have a 17-day, uninterrupted span of games from Sept. 8 through 24. That brutal stretch will begin with a daunting 10-game, three-city road trip through Cleveland, Toronto and New York, a gauntlet that could make or break the Orioles’ season.

TEXAS RANGERS (66-67, 4 games behind)

Games remaining: 29

Home: 17

Away: 12

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 12

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 17

Like the Angels, the Rangers face an AL West-heavy September schedule. They have six games remaining against the Angels and seven against the Mariners. Texas also gets a chance to play against the current wild card leaders, the Yankees, with a three-game series in New York Sept. 8-10. The Rangers could make a big move in the wild card race if they’re able to win all those key series.

If the Rangers can stay alive until the final week, their schedule gets easier. They end their season with a seven-game homestand: three against the Astros (who will have already clinched the division by then and could be resting regulars) and four against the Athletics.

TAMPA BAY RAYS (67-68, 4 games behind)

Games remaining: 27

Home: 14

Away: 13

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 24

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 3

It’s a good news, bad news situation for the Rays. The good news is that they have four days off in September, more than any other wild card contender. That’ll give them plenty of chances to rest their legs from the Tropicana Field turf.

The bad news is that when they do play, the Rays will face a grueling stretch of opponents for nearly all of September. After opening the month with a three-game series against the lowly White Sox, the Rays’ final 24 games are all against winning teams. They have six against the first-place Boston Red Sox and a two-game interleague set against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. Their other opponents are their wild card competition, the Orioles (seven games), Yankees (six) and Twins (three). The Rays can’t afford any losing streaks, or they’ll be buried in the race.

SEATTLE MARINERS (66-68, 4 ½ games behind)

Games remaining: 28

Home: 15

Away: 13

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 15

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 13

The Mariners, whose 15-year postseason drought is the longest in the majors, will face a tough task in trying to sneak back into the playoffs. All but three of their remaining games are against the AL West, with the exception being the AL Central-leading Indians. On the plus side, six of those games are against the hapless Athletics, but all their other opponents will be a tough slog: the first-place Astros (six) and the wild-card-chasing Angels (six) and Rangers (seven).

The Mariners are so far behind at this point that they’ll need to be nearly perfect, especially against the Angels and Rangers, to climb back into the race. They start September with a nine-game homestand, which could help them build momentum for the rest of the month.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS (65-67, 4 ½ games behind)

Games remaining: 30

Home: 13

Away: 17

Remaining vs. teams .500 or better: 15

Remaining vs. teams below .500: 15

The Royals are the anti-Rays — whereas Tampa Bay has plenty of days off in September, Kansas City has only one (Sept. 18). A Sept. 25 makeup game at Yankee Stadium (from a May 25 rainout) erased the Royals’ other scheduled off day. It also added to a long road trip in which the Royals will go through Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago and New York for 11 games.

The Royals get to play 12 September games against the two clear non-contenders of the AL Central, the White Sox and Detroit Tigers. But they also have 11 against the first-place Indians and wild card-hopeful Twins. Plus, they end the season with an interleague series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who look to be on their way to an NL Wild Card berth.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Osfan73

    September 1, 2017 at 7:15 am

    A tough september awaits the Os…..2 series with the Yankees and one ea with Cleveland and Boston. Hope the pitching holds up somehow.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 1, 2017 at 8:38 am

      So cliche, but it really is the key. This team will hit enough, for the most part. It will catch and bullpen will be fine. it’s all about the rotation.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 1, 2017 at 7:44 am

    I realize you have to write about something in your business Paul, but me thinks we’re overanalyzing things again.

    What did the numbers tell you the likely outcome was going to be BEFORE this past weekend’s trip to Beantown? What were the results?

    Just play the games. I like our chances.

    Who knows … maybe Ubaldo will even throw another gem or two? Then again … maybe not.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 1, 2017 at 8:41 am

      I’m gonna disagree with ya here, Boog. (It is my site after all.) The purpose of this piece wasn’t to predict. It’s to show who has the tougher and easier roads. Kind of like when basketball analysts break down the tournament field once it is announced. We all know you don’t get all of those right; that they play the games for a reason. But I like to know what teams — especially the ones I follow — are up against. Carry on.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        September 1, 2017 at 9:28 am

        Hell I disagree with me half the time Dan. Hah! But I’ll remember this when the Twins fall out of the playoff picture despite their favorable schedule.

    • Paul Folkemer

      September 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Funny, Boog, my first draft of the story was “I was going to analyze each team’s schedule, but actually the schedule doesn’t matter because they need to play the games. The end.”

      Dan insisted on something a little more substantial.

      • woody

        September 1, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        Interesting piece but of course strength of schedule means different things to different teams.

        O’s, Kansas, Texas to name just 3 – they need to be playing the teams above them to catchup. The Royals face the Twins 7 times in the next 10 days – thats 7 vs below .500 for Twins and 7 above .500 for the Royals – but its pretty obvious that Kansas are going to be grateful for the opportunity to do some damage to the key team in their division.

  3. OsFanStuckInNY

    September 1, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for putting this all together. No one can predict, of course, but it’s fun to spend a few spare thoughts on what it would take for each team to make a run.

    Still, because of the horrendous starting pitching and on behalf of the overworked bullpen, I find myself wondering if the O’s would be better off falling out of contention as early as possible so they can give more time to those who figure in the rebuilding process.

    But mostly, I keep hoping for a miraculous turn around by Jimenez, Tillman, Miley, more improvement from Gausman, unexpected greatness from Hellickson, and an Ironman arm for Bundy.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      I’m not sure there are many who figure into any rebuilding effort that will be up this year. Sisco is probably the only one. You have to understand some of these young kids — like Hays and Mullins — have barely played full seasons in their careers. It’s best to give them rest whenever Bowie finishes.

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      September 1, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      True enough. I was thinking of things like starting Castro and Cisco and giving Hays & Mullins a few starts to get their feet wet. Also, starting Santander in at least several games — maybe even 7 in a row to see what he can do.

      • woody

        September 1, 2017 at 10:37 pm

        who’s our Quentin Berry pinchrunner this year?

  4. Bancells Moustache

    September 1, 2017 at 10:10 am

    I don’t like the O’s chances, even with the 7 game streak. Fact is that the starting pitching is horrendous. 3 of those seven games required the O’s to put up big time offensive numbers to offset yet another weak pitching performance. Were it not for a spike in offense, which never lasts with this team, we are probably talking about a far more mediocre 4-3 stretch, or even a 3-4 when you factor in the anemic offense in the 2-1 win over the Sox. You guys go ahead in drink the Kool-Aid. I’m of the mind that, when your long reliever is arguably the most important player on the team, you ain’t no contender.

    Plus, recent events have pretty much ordained from on high that the Houston Astros are destined to take the pennant with the entire country in their corner. I’m pretty sure they’ve already begun filming the ’30 for 30′ episode.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Not sure what to say here. I just smile.

      • Bancells Moustache

        September 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        Come on Dan-o, do you really want to be the team that knocks the ‘Stros out of the playoffs and breaks all of those peoples hearts?

    • Raymo

      September 1, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Ya know BanMo, it doesn’t always play out like that. I’m thinking of 2001. After 9/11, we all were rooting for the dreaded Yankees to win the World Series but Curt Schilling and the big unit weren’t very sentimental.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    September 1, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    I agree. That series holds a very special place for me, I watched games 6 and 7 in a hotel in Hanover MD, waiting for Uncle Sam to put me on a plane to Atlanta and then a bus to Fort Benning Georgia to go fight the great struggle of our time. I was rooting for the Diamondbacks then. But, I must point out that the Yankees did win the Pennant that year, just as I said the Astros will this year. Cubs over Astros in 7, in the highest rated World Series since 1975

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