After a pretty in-depth analysis on the remaining schedules a few weeks ago by William Juliano, it is necessary to take another look at how the home stretch shapes up for the teams the Yankees are competing against for a playoff berth.
Schedule- vs. Texas (3), vs. Baltimore (4), @ New York (3), @ Toronto (3)
Games against teams above .500-Nine, all fighting for a playoff spot.
The Rays have one of the more difficult schedules down the stretch. They are somewhat fortunate that the Rangers have faltered the way they have, potentially providing a little bit of insurance despite their lead in the Wild Card race.
Schedule-@ Tampa (3), @ Kansas City (3), vs. Houston (3), vs. Los Angeles (4)
Games against teams above .500-Six, all fighting for a playoff spot
Like the Rays, they are fortunate to have a lead going into the final two weeks as the schedule is not easy with six road games against contenders. They have not played well as of late, although those games have come against good teams like the A's and Pirates. There may be a lot of pressure on the Rangers for those final two home series against what should be lesser opponents.
Schedule-@ Kansas City (2), vs. Houston (4), vs. White Sox (2), @Minnesota (4)
Games against teams above .500-Two, with the Royals fighting for a playoff spot
If you've heard a lot of chatter recently about Cleveland being in prime position for a playoff spot, their schedule is the reason why. They just finished a sweep of the White Sox and after they wrap up their series with the Royals they play the dregs of the NL Central. As an additional benefit, they have an off day next Monday to provide an opportunity to reset the rotation and give their players an extra day to heal when most teams are playing.
Schedule-vs. Cleveland (2), vs. Texas (3), @ Seattle (3), @ White Sox (4)
Games against teams above .500-Five, all fighting for a playoff spot
The Royals have a good opportunity to make gains this week at home against teams ahead of them before finishing off with one of the easier sets of games, albeit on the road. The question is if it will make enough of a difference. Even if they take care of Cleveland and Texas, that benefits all of the other contending teams as well. It is doubtful that they do enough to grab one of the top two spots without a heroic final push.
Schedule-@ Boston (3), @ Tampa Bay (4), vs. Toronto (3), vs. Boston (3)
Games against teams above .500- Ten, although only four against a team fighting for a playoff spot.
On paper, this is the most difficult schedule among contenders. In practice, it is difficult to tell because Boston does not have a lot to play for at this point. I doubt Boston shuts it down for the series this week, but those final days of the season, the Red Sox could be playing their games in simulation mode.
Schedule-@ Toronto (3), vs. San Francisco (3), vs. Tampa Bay (3), @ Houston (3)
Games against teams above .500-Three, against Tampa Bay
The Yankees schedule may not be quite as easy as Cleveland, but it's close. After the series against Toronto, the Yankees host the Giants and will miss both Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. Then they have a day off where they can skip Phil Hughes and not let him start in the important Tampa Bay series. Follow it up with three games against a terrible Houston team, and the Yankees have a decent shot. If you're looking for reasons for optimism, look to the schedule, not the standings.