Inside the Sked: Will the Yanks make a run?

Is it too much of a stretch to think Mo Rivera will see one last October? Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

When I was a kid, there may have been nothing I liked more than trying to figure out who was going to make the NFL playoffs with two weeks to go. For whichever team you rooted for -- in my case, the Steelers -- you could go down the list and decide if there was a way for your team to sneak in, using all the tiebreaker formulas.

It was particularly fun when your team was on the outside looking in with two games remaining, but you could predict by the matchups that they would find a way. When they did it, it felt like you discovered magic.

Baseball, as a local philosopher/play-by-play man likes to remind us, is not so easy to predict, Suzyn. But with the regular season ending in exactly a month, on Sept. 29 in Houston, we can try.

The next 10 days, all at home, should tell us a lot about the Yankees' wild-card chances. They face the Orioles for three games, the White Sox for another three and then the first-place Red Sox for four.

Barring a sweep of Boston next weekend, the Yankees basically have no shot in the division, heading into Thursday 8.5 games out of first and with three teams in front of them. All of those AL East teams play each other in the next month, so the chances the Yankees leap over them are very slim.

The Yankees' wild-card picture is bleak, but less so -- they're five games back -- and if you believe in miracles, there is a path to the sudden-death game. But you have to be a believer. If the Yankees can go 21-8 and finish at 91-71, they will have a chance.

Below, we have listed the strength of schedule for each of the wild-card contenders, how they are trending and an optimistic prediction for the Yankees to find a way into October.

Yankees (70-63, .526, five GB)

Orioles (3)

White Sox (3)

Red Sox (4)

at Orioles (4)

at Red Sox (3)

at Blue Jays (3)

Giants (3)

Rays (3)

at Astros (3)

Total opponents' record: 443-484 (.478)

Schedule takeaway: The Yankees' opponents have the second worst winning percentage of any of the teams contending for a wild card. They could head into Houston the final weekend of the season with a chance to complete a miraculous comeback.

Trend line: 6-4 in their past 10.

Forecast: As I said, if you give the Yankees an optimistic 21-8 record, they would finish 91-71. To get there, I have them nearly sweeping the four last-place teams on their schedule, going 11-1 against the White Sox, Jays, Giants and Astros. Against the teams in front of them in the East, that would mean a 10-7 record. While extremely hard, it is not impossible.

Tampa Bay Rays (76-57, .568, wild-card leader, five games ahead of the Yankees)

at A's (3)

at Angels (4)

at Mariners (3)

Red Sox (3)

at Twins (3)

Rangers (4)

Orioles (4)

at Yankees (3)

at Blue Jays (3)

Total opponents' record: 608-584 (.510)

Schedule takeaway: The Yankees' best hope is the Rays struggle out west, where they play their next 10 games against the A's, the Angels and the Mariners.

Trend line: 5-5 in their past 10.

Forecast: Looking at it very optimistically for the Yankees, the Rays go 15-14 in their final 29. If they do that and the Yankees go 21-8, Tampa would finish with the same 91 wins as the Yankees.

Oakland Athletics (75-58, .564, second wild card, five games ahead of the Yankees)

Rays (3)

Rangers (3)

Astros (4)

at Twins (3)

at Rangers (3)

Angels (3)

Twins (4)

at Angels (3)

at Mariners (3)

Total opponents' record: 372-418 (.470)

Schedule takeaway: Those final 10 games are very soft with the Angels, Twins and Mariners.

Trend line: 5-5 in their past 10.

Forecast: If the A's go 16-13, they would finish the year with 91 wins.

Cleveland Indians (71-61, .538, 3.5 GB in the wild card, 1.5 games up on the Yankees)

at Braves (1)

at Tigers (3)

Orioles (3)

Mets (3)

Royals (3)

at White Sox (4)

at Royals (3)

Astros (4)

White Sox (2)

at Twins (4)

Total opponents' record: 511-543 (.485)

Schedule takeaway: If you take the Braves out, whom the Indians play just one more time, the Indians' schedule is very soft. They not only have the benefit of being in the AL Central, but they also face the Astros for four games at home. Of their final 17 games, 14 are against the Astros (3), White Sox (6) and Twins (4).

Trend line: 5-5 in their past 10.

Forecast: The Indians win 18 of their final 31 to finish the year at 88-74. They definitely have a shot to do even better than that.

Baltimore Orioles (70-61, .534, 4 GB, one game up on the Yankees)

at Red Sox (1)

at Yankees (3)

at Indians (3)

White Sox (4)

Yankees (4)

at Blue Jays (3)

at Red Sox (3)

at Rays (4)

Blue Jays (3)

Red Sox (3)

Total opponents' record: 411-383 (.518)

Schedule takeaway: The Orioles still have a chance to make some noise, but they have a tough schedule that includes seven against the Red Sox.

Trend line: 5-5 in their past 10.

Forecast: With a tougher schedule, the Orioles will go 17-14, end up with 87 wins and on the outside looking in.

Prior to the season, I didn't believe the Yankees were going to make the playoffs -- and that was before all the injuries. I thought they were an 86-win team. I think that is more likely, but if they can get hot and either Tampa or Oakland falters, there is a road to October.