Where Are We Now? (152 Down, 10 To Go)
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodayToday, there are six teams within four games of the Twins and that second Wild Card spot. Baltimore is the one team that has fallen back. They are now 5.5 games back. Of course, being four games back with 20 games to play is very different than being four games back with ten games to play.
Here is how the 2nd Wild Card race stands with 11 days left in the regular season (12 if there is a Game 163).
Fortunately for the Twins, the other teams have all struggled in the last 9-10 days too. The Twins have gone 4-5 in the last nine days, but each of the other teams competing for the second Wild Card spot have been under .500. The Angels, Rangers, Mariners and Royals were all 3-5 during that time frame. The Rays were 3-4. The Orioles fell out of the race by going 2-7.
So, the Twins have lost four of their last five games but only lost 1.5 games in that time frame. The Twins still have the advantage for a playoff spot, and that should be encouraging.
Of course, here is the time when it is important to mention that the Twins went 59-103 last year, and they now have 78 wins this season with ten games to play. Yes, 2017 has been a tremendous success for the Twins regardless of what happens over these final ten games. That said, it’s OK to recalibrate your expectations (or at least your hopes) for the 2017 season at this point.
With ten games to play in a 162 game season, it’s as if the Twins have a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning of their season. Now it’s time to bring in the closer and finish the season strong.
Here is a quick look at the remaining schedule.
The Twins start with four games in Detroit and then head to Cleveland for three games. They finish with three home games against the Tigers.
Seven games against the Tigers would seen to be a very positive thing for the Twins, and relatively speaking, it is. The Tigers traded off some veterans including Justin Verlander and JD Martinez in the last couple of months. They are playing for 2018. So they can be a scary opponent too. The Twins obviously have motivation to finish strong and get to a one-game playoff. But the Tigers players have motivation to finish strong and try to impress the manager and the front office.
Earlier this week, we ran a twitter poll asking fans how many wins it would take to win the second Wild Card. 54% thought that the team would need to get to 85 wins. To reach 85 wins, the Twins would have to finish the season by going 7-3, which is certainly possible. The most plausible way to 85 now it winning one of their three games in Cleveland and then win six out of seven games against the Tigers.
But maybe we also need to recalibrate our thoughts on how many wins it will take to get to the playoffs. The Angels are 1.5 games behind the Twins and have a 76-75 record. They have 11 games left, so for them to get to 85 wins, they will need to go 9-2. They have one more game to play against Cleveland followed by three games in Houston. Those two teams are competing for the best record, and home field advantage in the playoffs. They also do not have a day off the rest of the season.
If 84 is the number of wins needed, the Twins would have to go 6-4 in their final ten and the Angels would have to go 8-3. For the Angels to go 8-3, they would likely need to win one of the four remaining games against Cleveland and the Astros, and if they do that, they would have to win their four games at Chicago (White Sox) and three games against the Mariners to end the season.
More important, if 84 is the new number that we believe that it will take to win the second Wild Card, it is harder to envision that this is more than a two-team race. Texas is now 75-76 and 2.5 games back of the Twins, but to get to 84 wins, they would need to go 9-2 down the stretch. Feasible? Yes. Likely? No. However, after playing in Seattle today, they will play seven games in Oakland but three against Houston.
The Mariners would have to go 10-0 down the stretch to get to 84 wins, and they have three games against Cleveland and three on the road against the Rangers.
The Royals would have to go 10-1 down the stretch. While they have the “easiest” schedule down the stretch, they have one game in New York against the Yankees that will certainly be difficult, and they only have a one-game margin for error. The Rays would have to go 10-0, and they have three against the Yankees.
So again, it now appears to be just a two-team race for the second Wild Card. Unless, of course, 84 isn’t the required win total.
Here are the projections for which of the competing teams will make the playoffs:
FiveThirtyEight predicts that the Twins will end with a record of 83-79. That would mean a 5-5 record down the stretch.
Minnesota Twins (78-74)
4 games @ Detroit
1 Day Off
3 games @ Cleveland
3 games vs Detroit
Los Angeles Angels (76-75, 1.5 games behind Twins)
1 game vs Cleveland
3 games @ Houston
4 games @ White Sox
3 games vs Seattle
Texas Rangers (75-76, 2.5 games behind Twins)
1 game @ Seattle
3 games @ Oakland
3 games vs Houston
4 games vs Oakland
Seattle Mariners (74-78)
1 game vs Texas
3 games vs Cleveland
3 games @ Oakland
1 day off
3 games @ LA Angels
Kansas City Royals (74-77)
1 game @ Toronto
3 games @ Chicago White Sox
1 game @ NY Yankees
3 games vs Detroit
3 games vs Arizona
Tampa Bay Rays (74-78)
4 games @ Baltimore
1 day off
3 games @ NY Yankees
3 games vs Baltimore
So, what do you think will happen? What do the Twins need to do?
I think the most important thing that the Twins can do is forget the three games in New York. Notice that they control their own destiny, they have the lead in the wild card race, and they can only control what they do. They need to take care of business in Detroit, and they need to find a way to eke out a win in Cleveland. Then they’ll still need to finish strong against the Tigers at home.
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