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Indians, Tigers face similar paths to American League Central title

By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer

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It’s uncanny how similar the Indians’ and Detroit Tigers’ schedules are the rest of the season.

It’s almost as if Major League Baseball knew the two clubs would end up battling one another for the American League Central Division title and wanted to make it a fair fight.

Both teams play more than two-thirds of their games against opponents with sub-.500 records. That’s the statistic making the rounds of most media outlets in Northeast Ohio.

But that is only the beginning. The Tribe plays 32 of its remaining 67 games at home; the Tigers play 33 of their last 68 at Comerica Park. Both clubs will play 35 road games. The Indians might be at a slight disadvantage in this regard, in that they must make a West Coast trip that begins in Minnesota and continues to Oakland and Anaheim.

The Tribe is slightly better at home than the Tigers, with its 30-19 record compared to 29-19 for Detroit. The Tigers have the edge on the road, with a 23-23 record, compared to the Tribe’s 21-25 log.

The Tigers have 21 games against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, considered to be the patsies of the Central Division. The Tribe plays 23 games against these teams, including beginning the post All-Star break with a three-game series in Minnesota.

Down the stretch, the combined winning percentage of the Tigers’ opponents in the club’s final 22 games is 42.5 percent. The Indians play their final 23 games against clubs that have a combined winning percentage of 41.9 percent.

The Tribe ends the season with four at home against the lowly Houston Astros, two against the White Sox and four on the road at Target Field in Minneapolis. The Tigers finish with six on the road, at Minnesota and at the (almost-as-lowly-as-the-Astros) Miami Marlins.

One word of caution. It is not accurate to lump the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels in with clubs such as the White Sox, Marlins and Astros. It would be no surprise to see either or both of these teams win at least half their games by the time the schedule concludes.

The Indians play the Royals six more times, three on the road and three at home. They also play three at Anaheim and three at Progressive Field against the Angels. The Tigers do not play the Angels, but they play the Royals 14 times, eight at Comerica Park.

Both the Tribe and Tigers play a few quality teams, including each other. But the Tigers must travel to New York to play the Yankees and to Boston to play the Red Sox; both are three-game series.

The Indians usually have a tough time against the Athletics, and they play three games at Oakland Coliseum.

The Tribe must also play the Braves, first in the National League East, in Atlanta.

The Indians and Tigers play seven more games against each other. What impact will the outcome of those meetings have on the race? Probably not much, unless one team wins at least five.

Even if one club dominates the other in the final two series (the Tigers are 9-3 against the Tribe so far), there will be plenty of time to rally, because the last game in the season series is Sept. 1.

All of this data might be relevant. Then again, maybe not. The schedule is only one factor among many, including how different these teams might look after the July 31 trading deadline. And with both clubs due to travel similar paths, the schedule might not matter at all.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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