Remember all that talk a few weeks ago about how the Angels were actually in great shape in the AL West race because the schedule strongly favored them? Yeah, those were good times.
The easy Angel schedule started up on August 19th when the Angels were six games back and on the verge of being out of contention. The slate of cupcakes they have faced has allowed them to trim Texas' lead down to a much more manageable 2.5 games, where we stand right now. Making up 3.5 games in just under three weeks is great, but I'm afraid that it may not be good enough.
As it turns out, the big schedule advantage the Angels had is now gone. Darn. I did so enjoy watching the Angels pound on the dregs of the American League. Unfortunately, that is the Rangers' job now. For those of you who are too lazy to look up the remaining Texas schedule yourself, here is there remaining opponents:
- Three at home against Oakland who is not good.
- Three at home against Cleveland who pretended to be good in the first half but now stinks.
- Three on the road against Seattle who could end up with the worst record in the AL.
- Three more against Oakland, but at least they are on the road.
- Three more at home against the Mariners, who also might end up having the worst road record in the AL.
- Finally, the three-game set in Anaheim that will hopefully decide the season.
In other words, the Rangers could probably start their Triple-A team in their 15 games before the fateful series against the Halos and still win at least seven games. Even with all of Texas' recent issues with their rotation, I have a hard time believing they are going to win less than nine of those 15 games.
As for the Angels, they actually still get to beat up on lousy teams, but they also have to deal with some good teams too. Here is their remaining schedule:
- Three home games against the best team in the American League, the Yankees.
- Three road games against Oakland.
- Three road games against the worst team in the American League, the Orioles.
- Four road games against a Toronto team that is better than you realize.
- Three home games against Oakland.
- Three home games against Texas.
That isn't a tough schedule, but it isn't a piece of cake either. Excluding the Texas series, the Angels have to play ten away games versus just six at home while the Rangers play nine at home and six on the road. Even if you assume the competition is equal (which it is not), the Rangers already have a big advantage. The bigger issue though is the difference in level of opposition.
Those six Oakland games a piece basically cancel out. And the Angels' road series against Baltimore and Texas' road series in Seattle essentially do too. Personally, I think the Jays are better than the Indians, but I wouldn't argue if you said they were on even footing. However, the Rangers play that Cleveland series at home while the Angels have to go to Toronto (plus they play four games rather than three). So right there the Rangers gain a small advantage. With the Angels-Yankees series and Rangers-Mariners series accounting for what is left for each team, that small advantage gets pretty big.
This isn't a doomsday prediction for the Angels though. They very well could win as many games as Texas does before the two squads meet. The problem is that it will be pretty hard for the Halos to win MORE games than Texas, which they have to do if they want to avoid needing a three-game sweep to win the division or force a one-game playoff. With the Angels trailing Texas by three in the wins column, that would mean the Angels need to win 12 of 16 to go into the final series even with Texas. That just assumes Texas "only" wins 9 of their Downy soft 15 remaining games. Should Texas win 10, 11 or even 12, then that will probably be all she wrote for the Angels' post-season hopes. And that could very well happen since the Rangers are 6-1 against Cleveland this year, 9-4 against Oakland and 10-3 against Seattle. Some might consider it an upset if they fail to win 11 of those games. As for the Angels, they are 2-3 against New York (ugh), 5-8 against Oakland (uh-oh), 5-1 against Baltimore (phew) and 3-3 against Toronto (drat). I hate to say it, but it looks to me like the Halos are far more likely to win 8 of those games than they are to win 12.
As hard as it may be to believe, but the Angels just needed to do better than winning 12 of their last 18 games. They've now left themselves quite a bit of work to do if they want to chase down the Rangers and they are going to need a lot of help from some terrible teams if they are going to pull it off. It isn't impossible, but I wouldn't go betting more than the contents of your wallet on it.