Breaking down which MLB playoff contenders have the toughest remaining schedule
Dodgers have easiest strength of schedule among postseason contenders, but who has the toughest?
The MLB season has less than two weeks left, and a number of playoff spots have already been decided, with the Red Sox clinching their third-straight postseason berth and the Indians clinching their third-straight division title. But there are still plenty of playoff races with drama left, so let's take a look at how those might shake out.
National League West
Let's start with the two tightest division races we have, both in the National League. In the West, the Dodgers took the first two games of their three-game series against the Rockies this week, going from a half-game back of Colorado to a 1 1/2 games ahead, and guaranteeing they'll lead the division after Wednesday's finale.
And the Dodgers have not only an easier schedule than the Rockies, but the easiest remaining schedule of the teams we'll examine here (with an opponents' weighted winning percentage of .469). After Colorado leaves town, L.A. hosts the Padres, who are tied for the most losses in the National League (92), before finishing with series in Arizona and San Francisco.
The Dodgers are actually 7-9 against both the Diamondbacks and the Giants this season, although they've won six of the past eight meetings with Arizona and they have Clayton Kershaw lined up to pitch the series opener against the D-backs and the season finale in San Francisco.
The Rockies, on the other hand, only play winning teams the rest of the way. After leaving L.A., they head to Arizona for three, before hosting the Phillies and Nationals to close out the season. They've split 16 meetings with the Diamondbacks, but Kyle Freeland won't pitch against them, instead lined up to face the Phillies and Nationals.
National League Central
In the Central, the Cubs have a 3 1/2-game lead on the Brewers, but sadly the teams have finished their season series (the Cubs went 11-8, but the Brewers won seven of the last 10 meetings). Their schedules the rest of the way are pretty similar.
National League wild card
The Brewers are chasing the Cubs in the division, but are two up on the Cardinals for the top wild-card spot, and are 3 1/2 games clear of the Rockies for a playoff spot. Milwaukee clearly has the easiest remaining schedule of the three, with the Pirates just two games above .500 and the Tigers to close out the season.
The Cardinals finish with three against Milwaukee at home, and then head to Wrigley to close the season against the Cubs. And the Rockies still have one more game with the Dodgers and don't face a team under .500 the rest of the way.
American League wild card
The AL wild card race is really between two teams, but it might be just as interesting because of the schedules. The Yankees are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Athletics to host the Wild Card Game, and the A's are 5 1/2 clear of Tampa Bay.
But the Yankees still have five games against the Red Sox, and four with the surprising Rays, who are 18 games above .500 and have the same record as the Indians, who have already clinched a playoff spot. New York's remaining opponents own a .537 winning percentage, which is the highest among the remaining contenders.
The Braves lead the Phillies by 5 1/2 games in the National League East, the biggest lead of any NL division leader. But it's worth mentioning because those teams play each other seven times the rest of the way, including the final three games of the season in Philadelphia. But for the Phillies to make it a race, something will have to change -- they've lost seven of the 12 meetings so far this season.
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