The Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics are currently locked up in an epic battle to make the postseason in the MLB standings. All three teams are playoff-caliber clubs presently on pace to win 94 games in 2019, but one of them is going to finish the season as the odd team out as there are only two wild card spots up for grabs in the American League.
1. Tampa Bay Rays: 82-59 (.582)
The Tampa Bay Rays went 17-10 in the month of August. Perhaps most importantly, they swept the Cleveland Indians in a three-game series at the end of the month to keep themselves in this race.
The remainder of the season’s schedule shapes up pretty nicely for the Rays. Nine of their last 11 road games (three vs. the Texas Rangers, three vs. the Los Angeles Angels, and three vs. the Toronto Blue Jays) come against teams that are under .500 on the season, and the remaining two road games against the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 17 and 18 could come against a team resting players as the Dodgers will have the NL West clinched by then.
Tampa Bay’s last 11 home games all come against division rivals with four left against Toronto, four against the Boston Red Sox, and two against the New York Yankees. The two New York games come in the last week of the season, so as will likely be the case in the Dodgers series, Tampa Bay won’t have to face a full-strength Yankees club.
2. Oakland Athletics: 80-58 (.580)
The Oakland Athletics had the exact same record as the Tampa Bay Rays did in August going 17-10 across 27 games. The most impressive stretch of the month came when the Athletics hosted the Houston Astros in a four-game series and the New York Yankees in a three-game series back-to-back. In seven games against two of the league’s top teams, the A’s held their own with a 6-1 record.
Oakland has an even more favorable remaining schedule than the Rays do. After finishing up their home series against the Los Angeles Angels on September 5, 18 of the team’s remaining 22 games come against teams that are under .500. The Athletics get the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Texas Rangers at home and the Rangers, Angels, and Seattle Mariners on the road.
A four-game road series against the Astros next week won’t be fun, but it’s smooth sailing for the A’s from there.
3. Cleveland Indians: 81-59 (.579)
The Cleveland Indians went 16-13 in August, ending the month on a disappointing 7-10 skid after kicking it off with a hot start. A seven-game New York road trip against the Yankees and Mets ended with a 2-5 record.
After wrapping up a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox on September 5, Cleveland has four road series remaining against the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, and Washington Nationals. Those series are split up by a nine-game homestand that includes three games apiece against the Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies.
Washington should have an NL wild-card spot locked up by the final weekend of the regular season, so that series should come against a Nationals team resting many of its starters. The Indians, Rays, and Athletics all have very manageable schedule’s down the stretch; who will win the race?