Tag Archives: Houston Astros

Fans Impact The Royals Playoff Run

The Kansas City Royals are up two games to none on the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. As one of the rabid fans of this Royals club, I like to think that the fans have had a big impact on the playoff run up to this point. Some of this impact is obvious and reported on, while other impacts have been hidden.

If you want to see the physical on field impact that the Royals fans have had on this series, look no further than the Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. The battle of Bautista versus Royals fans has been ongoing since the Royals took on the Jays in Toronto back in August. Bautista was in the middle of many multiple bench clearings and stare downs as the Jays and Royals had one of the most hostile series of the year. He even took to Twitter to proclaim he no longer respected Royals manager Ned Yost. While Bautista has become one of the most arrogant and unlikeable players in the game with his on field antics and off the field Twitter rants; he is especially despised by Royals fans. We will have our team’s backs, and we’ve shown that so far in this series.

After striking out early in game one, Bautista was visibly whining and pouting in the Jays dugout. The fans of KC jumped on this, as videos and memes of Bautista in the dugout went viral. Inside the stadium fans booed him with a furry that only the likes of Robinson Cano and Brett Lawrie have heard. They cheered when he took strikes and booed his whole trip to first base when he walked. After catching a fly ball for the third out late in the game, Bautista faked like he was going to throw the ball to the crowd proving that the crowd had gotten inside his head. The Royals went on to win that game 5-0.

In the second game fans had an even bigger impact on Bautista and the Jays as they blew a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning. Bautista had another bad day at the plate, again whining and pouting after being rung up by the home plate umpire. After that at bat to finish the sixth inning, Bautista taunted Royals fans behind the dugout and in the outfield but showing 3-0 with his hands. It was just a few pitches later that Ben Zobrist hit a high pop fly into shallow right field. Bautista came in as second basemen Ryan Goins went out to attempt the catch. Bautista slowed first as Goins called him off, then at the last second Goins backed away allowing the ball to fall to the ground. Goins said after the game he heard someone yell “I got it”. He didn’t hear someone, he heard 40,000 people inside the K saying it as the noise was a factor. The Royals went on to score five runs that inning, Bautista made no further gestures to the crowd. After the game Goins took responsibility for the play as Bautista threw his teammate under the bus saying the video will show what happened.

Luckily for Bautista and his teammates, they get away from KC for a few days as the series heads to Toronto for the next three games. But that will only protect the Jays from the physical help of Royals fans. No amount of distance will protect them from Royals superstition. Now that you’re done rolling your eyes, hear me out. We are all superstitious when it comes to sports. We all have that favorite shirt, spot on the couch or pre-game ritual. Even Yost has superstitions as he bats Alcides Escobar lead off for no reason other than “we win when he leads off”. Nobody, not even Yost, believes that the sole reason for the Royals winning games is because Escobar bats leadoff. But at the same time, if it works, who am I to argue with the logic?

The same goes for fans. Case in point, the lucky nachos of section 405. Now this goes back to ALDS game five against the Astros. With the Royals trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning when a Royals fan tripped and dropped a plate of nachos onto the stairs in section 405. It was only seconds later that Eric Hosmer roped a single scoring Lorenzo Cain. Someone in the crowd said “don’t touch the nachos, they must be lucky”. Johnny Cueto retired every batter he faced after the nachos were spilled and the Royals scored six more runs. The fans protected the nachos, asking fans to step around them, even taking the broom from the employee paid to clean them up. The nachos were cleaned up in the eighth inning but that didn’t stop the fans in section 405 as they chipped in and bought a new plate of nachos, sitting them in the same spot as a sacrifice to the baseball gods.

Did those nachos have any effect on Hosmer hitting that ball or Cueto pitching his best game of the season; no. Does the fact that my mom has worn the same Royals jersey the day of games since the playoffs started affect how the team plays; no it doesn’t. My wife loves telling me that where I sit, what my kids wear, or what I’m eating has no effect on the outcome of games. As with most things in life, my wife is right. But while she makes logical sense, it’s also hard to argue with results. I’ve always said when it comes to superstitions, what does it hurt? When the Royals come home again we will be the tenth man on the field and do our best to throw the visiting team off their game. But we will also be doing our best to follow Yost lead and do what works, even if it doesn’t make any sense. So protect those nachos, wear that lucky shirt and create whatever seating chart you need. While there is no proof that the crazy things we do help, there is also no proof that it doesn’t!

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

It’s Playoff Time

The Kansas City Royals finished the regular season with an American League best 95-67 record. They won the Central division for the first time and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The fans shattered the all-time attendance record and took over the All Star Game. This has to be considered one of the greatest regular seasons in franchise history. But as of today, none of that matters one bit.

The playoff run will begin this Thursday when the Royals take on the winner of the Wild Card game. That game will feature the Houston Astros traveling to take on the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Experts and fans will go back and forth on who the Royals would prefer to face in the ALDS, and either side has great points. I do not believe that the Royals themselves care one bit who they play. That is not because the Royals believe they are so much better than either team because they are just the WC team while the Royals have the best record. I don’t think the Royals care because they have seen what a WC team can do first hand and will take them seriously.

The Royals have seen what happens when teams don’t take you seriously. They came into the 2014 playoffs as the team every fan base was hoping to play. I remember getting tweets from Baltimore Orioles fans during the ALDS, telling me how much they’d rather play the Royals. They thought the Royals were like Cinderella, and when midnight struck they’d turn back into the old Royals. Before they had time to realize how wrong they were the Royals were celebrating in the middle of the field after sweeping them. The only team that took the Royals seriously was the San Francisco Giants because they were a WC team themselves.

Last season Royals fans just wanted to make it into the post season. We celebrated getting into the Wild Card like we’d won the World Series. Then before that game all anyone cared about was winning just that one game. We wanted to win that one game so we could then play actual October playoff baseball. Once the Royals won that game, any after that was playing with house money and fans would have been happy with anything.

This year fans are expecting a deep playoff run before a game is even played. I should clarify that when I say expecting I don’t mean it in the terms of the season was a waste or people should be fired if the Royals don’t win the World Series. This is still the Royals, and after thirty years of never sniffing the playoffs, most Royals fans would still look at this season as a success no matter how far we go in the playoffs. But that doesn’t change the fact that after getting to the seventh game of the World Series last year, the Royals and their fans have a nasty taste in their mouth. The only way to get rid of that specific taste is by replacing it with the sweet taste of victory that only comes with winning the World Series.

The road to that World Series starts Thursday in Kansas City. If anyone would like to try to take that series from us, they will have to come into Kansas City and take it. For those who want to try, myself and 40,000 of my closest friends have just one thing to say, bring it on!

The Keys to Winning the MLB Wild Card Game

Tonight marks the beginning of the 2015 MLB playoffs and the fourth year of the Wild Card games. The postseason kicks off with the A.L. Wild Card game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. Last year’s postseason opener, Athletics vs. Royals, was arguably the best game of the playoffs, ending with a walk-off win for the Royals with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning. This year’s N.L. Wild Card game, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates (for the third year in a row) and the Chicago Cubs, will be played tomorrow night.

 
As game time approaches, teams are looking for any bit of data that can give them an edge. They are studying film and searching for any stat patterns of previous winners, hoping to find the sources of success.

 
After doing my own extensive research (somewhat extensive, I mean, only six MLB Wild Card games have ever been played), I found a few consistencies between the past victors. Granted, these stats may not lead to success this year because baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict, the sample size is still very small, the teams and players are different this year, and the evidence I used isn’t overwhelming, but I did the best that I could with what I have and if you remember from earlier in this sentence—baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict. Anyway, here are the keys to winning the MLB Wild Card games.

 
Score first – Teams that score first are 4-2. Now, I realize that this doesn’t exactly represent a large majority, so I’ll amend the key slightly: score early. The two winning teams that didn’t score first had taken a lead by inning 3 (Royals) and inning 4 (Cardinals). And to be fair, the Royals only didn’t score first because they were at home so they batted in the bottom of the 1st inning, at which point they scored.

 
Hold the lead after 5 innings – In the same vein as the first key, taking an early lead has been paramount to winning. In the vast history of the Wild Card game, teams are undefeated (6-0) when holding a lead at the end of the 5th inning. While the 2014 Royals proceeded to blow their lead before staging a late comeback, they were still ahead at the end of five.

 
Play better defense than your foe – Five of the six winning teams committed the same number or fewer errors than their opponents. The only exception was the Giants team of last season. As you may recall, they had a guy named Madison Bumgarner on the mound that day and he was pretty good in the postseason last year. More than capable of making up for his defense’s errors, he still pitched a complete game shutout.

Your starting pitcher needs to be solid, but not necessarily spectacular – Teams are 6-1 when their starting pitcher finishes with five or more innings pitched while allowing four or fewer runs. The one losing team was the Rangers.  In their game, Yu Darvish gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings but was out dueled in a 5-1 loss.
This should take some of the pressure off the starters of these games. Considering that teams are starting their number one guy, four runs over five innings really isn’t asking for much.

 

Run –   Even if you aren’t a great base-stealing team, run at least once. Teams are 2-0 when they steal at least one base. The only other team to attempt a steal (albeit unsuccessful) was also victorious. So take chances. That steal of second may just set up a two out run-scoring hit that extends your team’s season.

 

Be clutch –   Teams with more hits with runners in scoring position are 4-0. The postseason comes down to execution in pressure spots. The team with more timely hits will typically earn the win.

 
Put the ball in play –   Teams with fewer strikeouts (batting) are 4-2. Make contact and anything can happen. One error can prove costly, but that won’t happen if batters are striking out. Listen to your Little League coach: choke up, shorten your swing, and make contact.   Or…

 

Swing for the fences –   Different strokes, right? Teams that hit more homeruns than their opponents are 3-1. If your team struggles to make consistent contact, be sure that every batter’s contact counts.

 

If you have a lefty, start him –   Left-handed starting pitchers are 3-1. This is good news for the Astros and bad news for everyone else. Maybe the Cubs should think about starting Jon Lester instead of Jake Arrieta. Wait. Arrieta has only allowed four earned runs in the past 2+ months? Never mind.

 

The bullpen must flourish –   Teams are just 1-4 when their bullpen allows more than 1 run. This is a tall order. No doubt. The responsibility falls on both the manager to find the appropriate matchups and the pitchers to come through when called upon.

 
Chances are that I will be correct about half these keys and incorrect about the others, just like with my game picks. Speaking of which, I’m going with the teams of the guys that should be the two Cy Young Award winners: Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel.

 
Astros over Yankees
Cubs over Pirates

 

 

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) and leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

Critical Mass: The Indians Playoff Fate Will be Decided This Week

Approximately 10 days ago, the Indians were just 4.5 games back from the second wildcard spot held by Texas. In front of them were the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins.

Today, the Indians remain 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot held by Houston. In front of them are the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels.

In 10 days and 9 games, the Indians haven’t made up any ground and the Twins and Angels have effectively traded places.

Such is baseball I guess.

Two of the four games against the Tigers were postponed and the Indians split the Sunday doubleheader with Detroit. The Indians then split their four game series with the Royals 2-2 and followed that up with a series win against Chicago winning 2 games and dropping just 1.

After an off day on yesterday, the Indians begin a critical three game set at Minnesota which could decide if the Indians are in or out by the week’s end. Houston continues its series with Los Angeles and, as much as it pains me to say it, the Indians need Houston to sweep the Angels. In doing so (accompanied by an Indians sweep of the Twins), the Indians and Angels will swap places and effectively turn the run for the second wildcard into a two man race: Astros vs Indians.

After the Astros play Los Angeles, they play a critical series against Texas. In this series, it is important that the Indians hedge their bets on Texas. The Indians have 0 stake in the AL West. Therefore, it makes sense for the Indians to root for any team that knocks teams ahead of them out of the wildcard.

In this case, that means Texas.

If Texas can pull through and sweep (or take 2/3) from the Astros (combined with a favorable outcome between the Indians and Royals), Cleveland may enter the final week of the season either in the second place wildcard spot or battling tooth and nail for it with the Astros.

The latter scenario is predicated upon the idea that the Indians do what is necessary when it is necessary. Unfortunately, especially this season, that has not really been the case.

On to more interesting talk though: the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year race:

Several weeks ago, the race looked to be all but locked up with Astros rookie shortstop Carlos Correa. A recent push by Francisco Lindor (at the plate) has made things much more interesting. Correa maintains a slugging percentage north of .500 and currently boasts 19 HRs and 12 SBs in 88 games. Lindor is holding steady with an OBP of just over .350 with a batting average higher than .300. Throw that on top of his gold-glove worthy defensive play at shortstop, and it becomes clear why Lindor remains neck and neck with Correa. Correa is a decent player defensively, but he is nowhere near the level of Francisco Lindor. If Francisco Lindor can continue to hit the ball at the clip he is at currently, it will come down to the last at-bats of the season to decide who wins the Al ROY award.

The next 6 games of baseball, for the Astros, Indians, and Angels, are critical. Depending on how things play out, the Indians could be in a neck and neck race for the second wildcard position or sitting 6+ games out of the second spot.

It’s all a matter of time. The focus should be on the game at-hand. Looking ahead could cause critical missteps that could endanger the run the Indians are on. Tito has had the boys here before (2013). If he can maintain their focus and keep them loose, I sincerely believe they can make a run for the 1 game playoff at New York. The problem becomes the position they’ve placed themselves in by not winning enough earlier – having to rely on others (namely Texas) to come through.

In one week, I will be able to tell you where we stand.

Hopefully I bring good tidings.

The American League Wildcard and the Trouble with Schedules

It appears that the Indians’ favorable schedule down the stretch is keeping the glimmer of playoff baseball alive in September.

I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it either. As I wrote last week, the Cleveland Indians are still relevant as it pertains to the 2015 playoffs. At the beginning of August, most writers and fans alike had capped this season as a disappointment and were looking ahead to 2016. Slowly but surely, the Indians strung some wins together and figured things out.

Currently, the Indians are just 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot currently held by the Texas Rangers. In front of them are the Los Angeles Angels (3.0 GB) and the Minnesota Twins (1.0 GB).

Let’s take a look at each of the current contenders and their remaining schedules in the months of September/October:

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota twins are currently locked in a series with the Chicago White Sox, having won game one of the three game set last night, 6-2. After their remaining two games in Chicago, the Twinkies travel home to Target Field for a 10 game homestand featuring visits by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and, after an off day on 9/21, the Indians. They then travel to Detroit for a three game set, followed by a four game set at Cleveland to finish out the month of September. Their final series of the season comes against the Kansas City Royals at home at Target Field.

Clearly, of the remaining games, the most important series comes against the Los Angeles Angels next week. Considering it’s a four game series, it could make or break the Twins’ wild card hopes in addition to sinking other squads’ hopes. In a perfect world, you hope that the teams split the two game series and gain no ground either way. The Indians have a favorable weekend series against the White Sox at the same time as the Twins v Angels series, so a sweep there could really place the Indians in a position to own the 2nd wildcard spot conversation entering the final two weeks of the season.

Another problem the Twins face down the stretch is the perceived strength of their schedule. They only face 4 teams after their weekend series against Chicago: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Kansas City. Of those four teams, one is going to be a division winner (KC), two are currently competing with the Twins for the second wildcard spot (CLE and LAA), and one is down and out this year, but still can pack a wallop (DET).

While the Minnesota Twins have been a nice story this season (see: Houston Astros), the strength of their schedule down the stretch may overarchingly doom them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels are currently in the middle of a three game home set against the Houston Astros and won their game last night 3-2. After finishing with the Astros, the Angels travel for 10 straight games against the Mariners (3), Twins (4), and Astros (3). After a day off, the Angels open a 6 game home stand against the Mariners and Athletics, before traveling to Texas for a 4 game showdown with the Rangers.

Of the teams remaining in the wildcard race as it stands right now, the Angels probably have the hardest schedule of them all. The AL West has been the surprise division (in my opinion) this year in terms of divisional excellence. The thought entering the season was that the Angels and Mariners would clash for the division crown while using the injury plagued Rangers, downtrodden Astros, and talent-less Athletics as target practice in between. In reality, Seattle has been an overwhelming disappointment considering their talent level. In addition, the Angels have played well below expectations and nobody really knows what team their going to get when playing them. The Rangers, even with all of their injuries entering the season, have found ways to win games and keep themselves relevant while the Houston Astros shocked the world and took the division by the horns while never looking back. The Athletics are the only team that have really played to expectations before the season started.

Instead of just one team to worry about down the stretch (Mariners), the Angels have to play three decent baseball teams within their own division. While this makes for interesting storylines as a writer, Angels fans are undoubtedly worried about the strength of schedule they face over the course of the upcoming weeks and what that means to their playoff hopes. Unfortunately, Mike Trout can’t play every position.

Texas Rangers

Like the Angels, the Rangers play many games remaining on their schedule in their own division. The Rangers have it slightly easier in that they see the Athletics twice (6 games) and have a random series at the end of the month against Detroit. Other than that, the Rangers play the division leading Astros twice (6 games), the Mariners once (3 games), and finish their season at Los Angeles (4 games).

If you read the second paragraph under the Angels tab, it applies here as well. The only difference being the strength of schedule the Rangers face. It is slightly less difficult than the Angels with two series against the Athletics and one series against the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians

Of the AL wildcard teams mentioned in this article, the Indians overwhelmingly have the easiest schedule down the stretch. Cleveland plays 3 at home against Detroit followed by a four game set against the Royals and a three game set against the White Sox – All at home. After an off day, they travel to Minnesota for 3 games and then to Kansas City for 3 games. They then travel home for the final home series of the season against the Twins (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games).

Easy, I think, is a relative term in baseball. The Indians have some challenges when it comes to their remaining schedule. The difference, I think, is the strength of the challenge as compared to other challenges faced by the latter wildcard contenders. Yes, the Indians face the Royals seven times down the stretch. Yes, the Indians face the Twins six times down the stretch. Those 13 games will be tough, of that I have no doubt.

But are we really afraid of going 0-13 against those two teams? Of course not.

Are we afraid of dropping all but one game in the series against the Royals and Twins? Of course not.

When I look at teams like the Angels and Rangers, I actually believe that they could walk into each others’ ballparks or Seattle’s or Houston’s and get blanked three straight games.

That’s how good I think the West is this year.

The Indians just have to play their style of baseball, get a few hits, and play no- to minimal-error baseball. They do that, and they have a chance to travel to New York for a one game wild card playoff against the vaunted Yankees. I believe that this team is in the right place, when it comes to their hitting, pitching, and defense, to make a push.

I’m not overly optimistic about our chances. I think, as a Cleveland sports fan, I packed away optimism, along with the ideals of “hope” and “dreams”, in a box long ago.

I do think the Indians have a golden opportunity to do something special and I hope they can muster together enough to make a wildcard appearance happen.

I guess, as the leaves change, we will see if the Indians fortunes change as well.

*Note: Teams directly behind the Indians in the standings were not included in this article due to its potential length if they were added and the shear number of teams still vying for a spot. As teams either move in front of the Indians or separate themselves from the pack, this article will be updated to reflect their chances and remaining schedules.

Tribe Time Now Not-So-After-Dark #2: iLube

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now After Dark Podcast…

Tribe Time Now After Dark #2 with Stephanie Liscio: iLube

Stephanie Liscio of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” joins MTAF: Cleveland Indians Columnist and Tribe Time Now Host Ryan Thompson for another edition of the Tribe Time Now Podcast.

Topics:

  •  Francisco Lindor’s lack of a call up at the beginning of the week
  • Giovanny Urshela’s promotion and Lonnie/JRam’s demotions
  • The Indians appearance at the Apple Developer’s Conference
  • The Indians 2015 MLB Draft (Picks 1-7)
  • Stephanie’s appearance and talk at the Maltz  Museum THIS WEEK.
  • And much much more

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Double Update: Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3 and Weekend Update #8

To save time, space, and effort – we’ve got TWO Tribe Time Now podcast updates below:

Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3: Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt

Topics:

  • AL Central overview
  • The Minnesota Twins (?)
  • The Houston Astros (?)
  • Looking ahead to June: Probable wins and tough matchups
  • Continuing the Conversation of Replacing JRam and Bourn
  • The real cost of Johnny Cueto to the Indians

And,

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update #8: Not Every Prospect Can Be The Next Andy Marte

Topics:

  • Week in review
  • What to do with Ramirez/Lindor
  • Should the Indians DFA Michael Bourn? Part II
  • How to evaluate prospects

Links:

 

Don’t forget to join the Tribe Time Now crew and Affiliate Hosts Saturday, July 11th at 5 PM at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up.

Information on the Tweet-Up can be found here.

 

Additionally:

Please consider attending a special presentation on “Integrating Cleveland Baseball: Media Activism, the Integration of the Indians, and the Demise of the Negro League Buckeyes” by author and It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” co-owner/editor, Stephanie Liscio on June 17th at 7 PM at the Maltz Museum in Cleveland, OH.

Admission is $12 ($6 if you’re a SABR member/member of the museum) and gets you into Stephanie’s talk AND to the Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming America exhibit which is only at the museum for the summer.

Information and pre-registration information can be found here.

Tribe Time Now Episode #16: Peaks & Valleys

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now Podcast…

Mike “Miggy” Brandyberry of Did The Tribe Win Last Night? joins Ryan Thompson MTAF Cleveland. Miggy and Ryan discuss Carlos Santana’s baby girl, the division as it stands now, conclusions from the TEX series, a preview of the SEA series, the curious case of Michael Bourn, and CF replacement options!

 

Topics:

  • Divisional Overview
  • Texas Series: Conclusions and thoughts
  • Michael Bourn: Too little too late?
  • Trade targets in center field
  • Seattle Series

Links:

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Tribe Bullet Points Friday: The Season Begins with the Re-Education of Hoynsie

Welcome to Tribe Bullet Points Friday. It’s the largely incomplete and mostly un-researched account of the Cleveland Indians week. Follow me on twitter at @RailbirdJ and complain about my writing to @MTAFCleveland

  • HAPPY BASEBALL, CLEVELAND! It’s been a long winter1I didn’t measure winter, so this might be a complete lie, but baseball is finally here to save us from potholes and deliver us to orange barrels.

  • Dallas Keuchel is really good. The Astros are probably terrible again in 2015, but Keuchel should remain a bright spot. The guy is a top ten leftie, and I have to imagine Terry Francona wouldn’t have put so many left-handed hitters in that lineup if the game were anything other than the the Season Opener.
  • Wait, was it Keuchel being good, or the Indians offense being bad? After a little bit of reflection, I think that loss to the Astros was more about Keuchel than the Indians offense. I’m sure I’ll rail against the Tribe bats a few times this season2Like when the two runs against ‘Stros #2 man Scott Feldman left me utterly unimpressed., but it’s SUPER early. I’ll start comparing team stats to the rest of baseball in a month or so, there’s no need to do that now.
  • Northeast Ohio Media Group Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes took a bit of a beating about stats yesterday. Follow Michael Hattery, Michael Ondo, John Grimm, and, of course, Paul Hoynes. Since they were all nice enough to say things on twitter for me to use.
  • The statistics versus old school debate will rage on for many years to come. Ed and Zach are two stat guys that got in my mentions on the tweet below, and, wouldn’t you know it, a little forward thinking clears up all that Hoynsie smoke and we could all agree that writing about baseball doesn’t mean you can’t be old school anymore, it just means that you can’t think the numbers are all hocus-pocus-hogwash and still have credibility.

LISTEN: Tribe Time Now #9: It’s @BRBBlog Dammit – iTunes, TuneIn, RSS

  • Stats guys and old school baseball guys CAN live in harmony. Just learn to appreciate how the other side thinks, stop assuming the other side is a bunch of idiots, and… Oh, Hell, who am I kidding. Our only hope is making marijuana legal in Ohio.

  • The Indians ALMOST no-hit the Astros to take the series. While I’m a little miffed that Nick Hagadone is playing with gasoline again early this season3Please stop, Nick. Do it for us., I don’t care one tiny little bit that the no-hitter was broken up in the ninth. I want good outings, solid offense, no errors, and wins more than I want anything else.
  • The Home Opener in Cleveland is today against the evil Detroit Tigers. But with Gaylord Perry presenting Corey Kluber with the Cy Young Award pregame and the Ghost of Bob Feller striking out Jim Thome at the front door4Or, at least Feller WOULD BE striking out Thome, if the designers had the forethought to make them face each other. You know, LIKE THEY DO DURING ACTUAL BASEBALL GAMES., I’m not worried about the pussycats at all.
All statistics are from Baseball-Reference. I love Baseball-Reference, and you should, too.

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1. I didn’t measure winter, so this might be a complete lie
2. Like when the two runs against ‘Stros #2 man Scott Feldman left me utterly unimpressed.
3. Please stop, Nick. Do it for us.
4. Or, at least Feller WOULD BE striking out Thome, if the designers had the forethought to make them face each other. You know, LIKE THEY DO DURING ACTUAL BASEBALL GAMES.