With the KC sweep in the books, the Twins now sit just one half-game off the wild card lead, in a tie with Boston. The Blue Jays and Angels are tanking, and it looks increasingly as if the AL Wild Card will be a down-to-the-wire race between Minnesota, Chicago, and Boston. (We might as well throw the Yankees in there, too, since they still have 11 games to play against the Red Sox, and the East lead could swing wildly between them before the season ends.) So who has the edge, schedule-wise, among those four teams? It’s actually an awfully close call. Here’s a look at how many games each of the contenders has left to play against sub-.500 teams, .500-plus teams, and head-to-head matchups against the other contenders:
Against Teams Under .500: 23 games remaining (9 Home, 14 Road)
Against Teams Over .500: 29 games remaining (17 H, 12 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (6 H, 9 R); 9 against Chicago
The Twins are the only team in the wild card race to still have a series left to play in the home parks of all three other contenders. However, they’re also the only contender without a truly scary stretch of games left in their schedule. For every three-game set against Chicago or Detroit, there’s a nice cushy landing on the likes of Baltimore and Kansas City right around the corner.
Against Teams Under .500: 21 games remaining (15 H, 6 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 32 games remaining (13 H, 19 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (6 H, 9 R); 9 against Twins
From Aug. 18 to 26, the Sox play 10 straight against the Twins and Tigers without an off day. Seven of those games are on the road. In fact, you could make an excellent case that Chicago has the toughest row to hoe to make the playoffs. Still, if they manage to hang near the top, they may just control their own destiny: their last three games of the season are at the MetroDome.
Against Teams Under .500: 20 games remaining (11 H, 9 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 32 games remaining (18 H, 14 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (11 H, 4 R); 11 against New York, including two(!) doubleheaders and one five-game series at Fenway.
Against Teams Under .500: 23 games remaining (9 H, 14 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 31 games remaining (17 H, 14 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (7 H, 8 R)
With any luck, either the Sawx or the Yanks will dominate their remaining head-to-head matchups, thereby taking the East out of the wild card equation entirely. But history suggests that won’t happen, so it will be vitally important for the Twins to play well at both Fenway and the Stadium in September.
- It was over 100 degrees in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, and to Royals’ fans, it must truly feel like they’re living in hell. It’s hardly any fun to watch this kind of a sweep, just because the Royals have really never done anything to us, and any Twins fan worth his salt can remember when it was our ballpark that sat sad and nearly empty, when our fans were the ones trying desperately to remember the last time they’d actually enjoyed a major league baseball game. Sunday’s dismal finale sold a measly 14,064 tickets, and the camera shots of the stands showed that there must have been thousands of no-shows.
- How bad is it in Kansas City for a fan right now? This is as close as the bloggers can get to optimism about the future: “The Royals have a plan, and insomuch as continuing to live represents a dogged determination to not die, well, the plan's working.” Oh, well. At least they have Dougie Baseball to chat with…
- The Matt Garza countdown is officially on, and the PiPress says he could join the team midweek. Mike Smith will almost certainly become the third Twins pitcher to go up-and-back to Rochester inside of a week after giving up four runs and three walks in three innings, and Terry Ryan is about out of options for the fifth starter’s spot. Furthermore, the organization was apparently impressed by Garza’s last start, in which he followed orders to start throwing something other than fastballs, and got excellent results.
- Yeah, yeah, we know there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect until he at least makes it to Double-A, but apparently, the kid Terry Ryan picked up in the Kyle Lohse trade may have a promising future as a major league reliever…
- …and speaking of everyone’s favorite melodramatic malcontent, he’s off to a pretty good start in Cincinnati. Gordon Wittenmeyer still thinks the trade was a mistake, and that the Twins would be in better position to contend with Lohse in the starting rotation. Jason Williams, as usual, feels differently.
- Did everyone but Intern Sam already know that Justin Morneau has a maple leaf tattooed on his right bicep? That’s just… really hot.
- When a highly touted prospect starts to fade, it gets some attention. But by the time that prospect has fallen far enough to drop completely off the radar screen, most fans have already forgotten he ever existed. Unless the prospect is Matt Harrington, who was drafted five times and never saw a minor league field. Harrington’s fall from grace was unique, certainly, but it could also serve as an important cautionary tale for inexperienced young athletes coming into contact with serious money (and the various slimeballs that such largesse attracts) for the first time.
(By comparison, the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League drew 7,809 to their game on Saturday night, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that the T-Bones park officially seats 4,365. This is awfully reminiscent of the years in the late 1990s when the St. Paul Saints occasionally outdrew the Twins, and it all puts Intern Sam in mind of the catchy jingle he heard at a T-Bones game a few years back, sung to the tune of The Flintstones theme song: “T-Bones! Meet the T-Bones! They’re a baseball team here in KC… They’re just like the Royals, ‘cept they win their games, and parking’s free!”)