I think many of us are still somewhat in shock that the Detroit Tigers have been in first place for most of the season. No one was predicting this at the start of the year. I remember when Jim Leyland announced in Spring Training that Fernando Rodney was going to be his closer. A collective groan could be heard throughout the state of Michigan.
Well, here we are with only six weeks of regular season left and the Tigers are still perched on top of the American League Central Division with a two and a half game lead over the Chicago White Sox. I can sense, however, that most fans are still feeling serious concern over the Tigers chances.
Can they really hang on until the end? If they do make it to the post season, do they have any hope of hanging with the Yankees, Angels and Red Sox?
One thing that gives me a great deal of hope is the remaining schedule for the White Sox. They’ve got a really tough road ahead of them and that should give an edge to the Tigers.
For example, the White Sox have an upcoming four game series against Boston at Fenway Park. We know how painful those can be. Then they travel to Yankee Stadium for a three game series to face the hottest team in baseball at their new stadium.
Add in a three game series at Minnesota, four more against Boston at home, and a six game west coast road trip against the first place Los Angeles Angels and then the Seattle Mariners. An already uphill battle is going to be even harder for the boys from Chicago.
If there is one advantage the White Sox’ schedule provides them, it’s the fact that they play the Tigers in Chicago for the rivalry’s three remaining games. If those three games were going to be played at Comerica Park, I would bet a ton of money that the Tigers would be able to stave off Chicago for good.
Fortunately, the Tigers finish the regular season at home against the Twins while the White Sox finish on the road against Cleveland. Even though the Twins are a better team than the Indians, the home field advantage could prove to make a difference for the Tigers who absolutely rock this year at Comerica Park.
It seems as though the worst of the Tigers schedule is now behind them. The Tigers are all done with the Yankees and the Red Sox. They have seven games remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays, a six game west coast trip against the Oakland A’s and the pesky Angels. The rest of their road trips are against Kansas City, Minnesota and Cleveland.
The edge clearly goes to the Tigers. Unfortunately, there will be no early magic number count or division clinching with two weeks left. This pennant race is going to go down to the wire. But it’s a bit reassuring to know that the remaining schedule favores our side. It may very well prove to be the difference in the end.