The A.L. Playoff Road Goes Through Cleveland and Kansas City
Oddly enough, the road to the playoffs in the A.L. Central Division is in the hands of either Cleveland or Kansas City, and their last series of the year will be the most important of the season; Not for them, of course, but definitely for the White Sox and Tigers.
One of the hidden gems of the baseball season is the full-circle antics and irony that can sometimes play out towards the final games - It's like Bud and the MLB boys plan it just to heckle the down-on-luck fan bases. This year is no different. While it's not the amazing Ruth Curse laid on Boston, lasting decades, this current irony should make for some interesting drama - including coaching careers on the line.
The Tigers currently hold a tight, one-and-a-half game lead over the White Sox and the remaining games mean everything for their playoff chance, respectively - Games that include match-ups against the Royals and Indians in a three-game finale.
The idea is simple: If you want to win a division, you have to beat and handle the teams beneath you. The accomplished go to the playoffs, the mission failed's go home.
The White Sox have already slipped in the past week, losing two of three to the dismal Indians, while the Tigers have won three in a row of a four-game stretch against the Royals - Losing two of three to the Twins previously got the Tigers in this mess in the first place.
The next two series could also play a factor, the scheduling gurus giving a break to the Tigers, playing the Twins, while the White Sox face a difficult Rays team - Who have playoff wishes of their own. Undoubtedly, these series play an important role too - a win is a win - but the final series still hold the most weight - Final series that will be played on the road by both teams.
The White Sox will finish in Kansas City, a team that has shown signs of actual ability in the second half. Chicago is only 6-12 this year against the Royals, a poor number that leaves little guarantee of series dictatorship. In fact, to make matters worse for the Sox, they are under .500 on the road this season. Perhaps the young Royals team, behind the old arm of Bruce Chen, can play spoiler to end not only their season on a high-note, but also put White Sox on mute. Regardless, I wouldn't pop the champagne in Detroit just yet because of the possible outcome.
The Tigers also carry an under .500 record on the road this year, and their final series against Cleveland isn't a wash, either. The Indians have won ten of the eighteen meetings this season, leaving them to cary the spoiler-alert in their minds too. True, they do have a terrible record, but they are 23-11 in one-run games this year. If Cleveland can keep it close, they might just be sending Detroit home, and Jim Leyland looking for another job - unfortunately.
What will happen? Who knows. One thing is for certain - If something is going to happen, it's got to go through Kansas City, and/or, Cleveland, first.