The Tampa Bay Rays came through their 21 game stretch of teams below .500 with a slightly disappointing 13-8. It wasn’t bad, but they also didn’t take full advantage of the situation.
Wild Card Standings
The Cleveland Indians currently sit half game ahead of the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have 30 games remaining while the Indians have 31 and the Athletics have 32 games left to play.
The 162 game marathon that is a Major League Baseball season has been reduced to a 30-32 game sprint.
There are three teams fighting for two playoff spots with the two that have the best finishes with get to play a one game playoff.
According to FanGraphs remaining schedule feature the Rays face the toughest schedule with a .512 expected win percentage compared to the Indians and Athletics that have identical .481 strength of schedules.
16 of the remaining games the Rays play are against teams below .500, but they have 14 games against the Houston Astros (3), Cleveland Indians (3), Los Angeles Dodgers (2), Boston Red Sox (4), and New York Yankees (2).
Only 7 of the Athletics remaining 33 games are against teams above .500 with 3 against the Yankees and 4 against the Astros.
The Indians have 15 of their 31 remaining against teams above .500 including the Rays (3), Minnesota Twins (7), Philadelphia Phillies (3), and Washington Nationals (3).
The series this weekend at Tropicana Field between the Indians and Rays could likely be the biggest series of the year for the Rays. If either team wins 2 of 3 it will put them a step ahead in the race, but a sweep by either side could give a team the cushion to finish the season with a comfortable advantage.
The FanGraphs playoff odds see it as a tight race. The Indians have the best odds at 76.1% due to having the narrowest of leads and their division being possible (13.3% to win the AL Central) trailing the Twins by 3.5 games. The Athletics (60.3%) and Rays (59.7%) are neck and neck with the Rays trailing the Yankees by 9.5 and Athletics trailing the Astros by 9.0 giving them a non-zero but not likely chance of chasing down the front-runner in their division.
At Baseball Prospectus their projections have the Rays with a slight edge at 69.4% just narrowly ahead of the Athletics at 69.1%. The Indians 61.3% trails the group of three.
Also of note: The Red Sox have a small chance with 5.4% at FanGraphs and 2.6% at Baseball Prospectus despite trailing the Rays and Athletics by 6.0 games.
Depending how you view each team you could rank the three teams in almost any order at this time with all having roughly an equal chance of taking home one of the two wild card spots.
The series this weekend in St. Petersburg is going to play a big role and give the Indians and Rays a chance to control their destiny.
Whoever has the best finish will have earned their spot and hopefully one of them belong to the Rays.