These clubs have toughest remaining schedules

Road to October won't be easy for Phillies, Cardinals, Rays

August 31st, 2019

We’ve already seen injuries rock the postseason chase since the last time we looked at the remaining schedules. Jose Ramirez might be out of the Indians’ lineup until October and Tyler Naquin suffered a potentially severe injury Friday, Carlos Correa and Ryan Pressly are down for the Astros and Chris Sale appears to be done for 2019.

But one thing hasn’t changed: There’s still a whole lot to sort out in the standings. Sixteen teams still own at least a 1% chance of punching an October ticket, according to FanGraphs’ playoff odds. As we did toward the beginning of the month, the following is a ranking of each of those contender's remaining strengths of schedule. We'll also highlight the biggest series left for each club.

(As a reminder, FanGraphs’ strength-of-schedule figures are a combination of opponents’ average win percentage along with an adjustment for home and road games. All numbers are through Friday's action.)

1. Phillies: .531
Games back in Wild Card: 3 1/2; Postseason odds: 4.7%

Key series: Philadelphia has to hit every mark from here on out. The five-game series from Sept. 23-26 in Washington still looms large, but the Phillies are in the midst of a crucial home-and-home set with the rival Mets beginning this weekend. If they can rebound from Friday's loss to win that series and then consolidate with another series win next weekend (Sept. 6-8 at NYM), it would help keep the Amazin's at bay and build momentum for that huge series in the nation’s capital.

2. Cardinals: .509
1-game lead in NL Central; Postseason odds: 82.2%

Key series: The Redbirds are streaking their way through August, turning a deficit to the rival Cubs at our last check-in into a spot in the catbird seat heading into September. But the schedule still says St. Louis has work to do, particularly in division clashes with the Brewers at home (Sept. 13-15) and then a four-game road set at Wrigley Field (Sept. 19-22) -- probably the Cardinals’ biggest series of the year.

3. Nationals: .505
Games back in Wild Card: 2 1/2-game lead; Postseason odds: 97.7%

Key series: Washington just has to play defense in the Wild Card standings, but the Nationals haven’t abandoned NL East bragging rights just yet. Taking at least three of those four games in Atlanta (Sept. 5-8) could make the Braves start to sweat.

4. D-backs .504
Games back in Wild Card: 4 1/2; Postseason odds: 5.3%

Key series: Already saddled with the lowest odds of any contender here, the D-backs face a schedule -- including tilts against the Dodgers, Mets and Cardinals -- that won’t do them any favors. They might need a four-game sweep in Queens (Sept. 9-12) to start leapfrogging the clubs in front of them, including New York.

5. Braves: .502
5 1/2-game lead in NL East; Postseason odds: 100.0%

Key series: Those postseason odds say it all; Atlanta is sitting pretty. But no one wants to scrap it out in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game, so the Braves will hope to crush the Nats’ division-title hopes for good by winning their upcoming series at SunTrust Park (Sept. 5-8).

6. Rays: .499
Games back in Wild Card: 1; Postseason odds: 52.3%

Key series: Tampa Bay finds itself in a three-team dogfight for two AL Wild Card spots (and the Red Sox won’t go away just yet). Its three-game home set with Cleveland, the Wild Card leaders, this weekend marks a must-win series to keep pace, and they got off on the right foot with a win in the series opener.

7. Brewers: .498
Games back in Wild Card: 5; Postseason odds: 7.4%

Key series: Every matchup is crucial for Milwaukee at this point, but a strong showing at Wrigley Field this weekend -- a place where the Brewers have won just one of six matchups this season, and five of 16 since the start of 2018 -- would boost the Crew’s confidence and knock down a fierce rival in the crowded NL race. The Cubs dominated in the series opener.

8-T. Cubs: .497
Games back in Wild Card: 3 1/2-game lead for 2nd NL Wild Card; Postseason odds: 87.3%

Key series: Keeping other Wild Card contenders at bay is important, but Chicago learned firsthand last year the dangers of letting its season come down to one game. The Cubs need to keep the NL Central lead within reach until their huge home series with the Cardinals (Sept. 19-22), the first of the rivals’ two showdowns over the season’s final two weeks.

8-T. Red Sox: .497
Games back in Wild Card: 5 1/2; Postseason odds: 7.7%

Key series: Losing Sale definitely hurts, but the loaded Red Sox offense (Rafael Devers, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, etc.) is going to keep them in the hunt. A four-game series against the Rays (Sept. 20-23) is Boston’s last opportunity to apply direct pressure on a fellow AL Wild Card contender.

10. Mets: .496
Games back in Wild Card: 5; Postseason odds: 14.9%

Key series: New York’s momentum has stalled a little, but opportunities abound with two series left against the Phillies -- and they grabbed the opener in decisive fashion -- and one apiece against the Nationals and Braves. The Mets got back into the race when they took two of three from the Nationals three weeks ago, and a sweep in Washington (Sept. 2-4) could really galvanize the fanbase.

11. Athletics: .483
Games back in Wild Card: 1-game lead for 2nd AL Wild Card; Postseason odds: 62.6%

Key series: The Astros have essentially locked up the AL West, so the A’s focus turns to getting back into the winner-take-all Wild Card Game for a second straight October. But Oakland doesn’t have any remaining matchups with a likely Wild Card contender, so we’ll circle this weekend’s set at Yankee Stadium as an opportunity to build more momentum and confidence. The A’s cruised in the series opener Friday after sweeping the mighty Yankees last week in Oakland.

12. Yankees: .481
Games back in Wild Card: 10-game lead in AL East; Postseason odds: 100.0%

Key series: Taking two of three from the Dodgers last weekend in L.A. -- a potentially key battle for home-field advantage in the World Series -- was a big statement by the Yankees. The pinstripes have all but sewn up the AL East, so shutting down the Red Sox at Fenway (Sept. 6-9), would help New York make sure its biggest rival stays out of the postseason.

13. Astros: .474
Games back in Wild Card: 9-game lead in AL West; Postseason odds: 100.0%

Key series: Like the Yankees, the Astros don’t have many more statements to make -- although Houston would still like to jump ahead of the pinstripes for home-field advantage in the AL bracket. Taking three of four from Oakland at home (Sept. 9-12 vs. OAK) would seal up the Astros’ third straight AL West title.

14. Dodgers: .472
Games back in Wild Card: 18-game lead in NL West; Postseason odds: 100.0%

Key series: Los Angeles is still neck-and-neck with the Yankees and Astros in the race for home-field advantage throughout the postseason, even after losing two of three to New York last weekend. That means every game still matters, and the Dodgers should absolutely bulk up in a three-game set at Camden Yards against the Orioles (Sept. 10-12).

T-15. Indians: .471
Games back in Wild Card: 1/2-game lead; Postseason odds: 77.8%

Key series: Ramirez’s absence could really test Cleveland, which was already processing Corey Kluber’s recent rehab setback, and they just lost Tyler Naquin, too. Those losses could put the Tribe on defense in the Wild Card chase, and they suffered another one in this weekend’s big series against the Rays.

T-15. Twins: .471
Games back in Wild Card: 4 1/2-game lead in AL Central; Postseason odds: 99.6%

Key series: Cleveland’s injuries could mark a big break for Minnesota, as could the Twins’ 13 straight games against the White Sox, Royals and Tigers to close out the season. A three-game set in Cleveland (Sept. 13-15) directly precedes that soft landing, and it could be the Twins’ opportunity to wrap up the AL Central.