I write this as the Tribe is finishing its fourth 27 game set this season (why I like 27 game sets). In the last update, I noted that over sets 4, 5, and 6 the Indians needed to finish 47-34 to win 90 games (I've set 90 games as the default playoff number as that would lead to a high % of an appearance with two wild card spots, and it's easily divided by 6). 47-34 over the final 3 sets means that the Indians needed to go 16-11 in two of them and 15-12 in one.
For brevity's sake, 16-11 is 96 win pace, 15-12 is 90 win pace. 16-11 is also winning 2 of 3 in every series. The good news is that the Indians have already won 16 games in this fourth set. They started in late June with the win against the Chicago White Sox for the four game sweep in Chicago. They had sweeps of Kansas City and Texas which helped when they lost three of four against Detroit and the two series after the All-Star Break against Minnesota and Seattle, and the series loss to Kansas City after the (first ?) four game sweep of Chicago. It's currently the 8th inning of the 27th game, with the Tribe up 6-1 over Chicago, but chickens, hatch, etc...
Assuming they win, that would give them a 17-10 mark for the fourth set, which is a huge get because:
Set 5 - Set 5 gives us some favorable matchups with a 3 game series against Miami, 6 games with the spiraling Angels, and 6 with Minnesota (although they've played us tougher than I would like). It also gives us next week's marquee matchup of the year so far in a 4 game series vs. Detroit, 3 games at Oakland, 3 games at Atlanta, and 1 game of the final series with Detroit. In order to go 15-12, the Tribe would need to win 2 of 3 against Miami, Los Angeles twice, Oakland, Minnesota twice, and splti the four games with Detroit, and go 1-3 over its last four with Atlanta and Detroit. There isn't a whole lot of room for error. While there is a potential for sweeps in there (they did sweep Oakland earlier, but the A's are much better now), they really can't afford to drop the ball against the Marlins, Angels, or Twins, simply because that combined with tough losses against Detroit and Atlanta could put them in a hole going into September. However:
Set 6 - Scheduling gods be praised. As Buster Olney scooped me in the Game Thread, the toughest five games in the last 27 games for the Indians are the first five games of that set. The final two Detroit games, and three against Baltimore. After that, oh boy, there can be some real damage done. The Indians have 3 against the Mets, 6 with KC, 4 with the Astros, 6 with the White Sox, and end with 4 against the Twins. A lot of those are non-contenders who will be playing some AAAA players as well. In order to go 15-12 in this set, It would require winning 2 of 3 against Baltimore, NY Mets, and Kansas City twice. Then they can still split the two White Sox series, the Astros series, and the Twins series. And lose the first game to Detroit to boot.
Set 5/August will be an exciting stretch of games. We have a chance to cut/overtake Detroit's lead, and stockpile some wins for a good September push into the playoffs. Even if there is a disastrous August (let's say 10 wins), September has enough of a light schedule to give the Tribe a shot at making the playoffs. Assuming Detroit doesn't win 25 in a row, it's quite possible that with a respectable next month, the Tribe will be battling Detroit for the division into the final weekend of the season.
The final post in this series will come August 30, hoping that the Tribe sits at 75 or more wins, healthy and hungry.