The home stretch of the 2018 Major League Baseball season is upon us and, with 15 teams vying for 10 playoff spots, there’s still a lot yet to be decided in September.

However, while every team has roughly 25 games left, it’s worth remembering that not all schedules are created equal. Some teams will establish hot streaks heading into October, while others will fade, and the teams they face will have a lot to do with that. For that reason, we’ve ranked the remaining schedules of the league’s hopeful contenders, from worst to first, with anyone six games or more back of the wild-card omitted.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Grade: D
Record: 74-63, 3rd in NL West, 4th in wild-card
Games remaining: 25 (15 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 10-16)
Biggest series: 4 @ COL (Sept. 10-13)

There’s no other way to slice it, Arizona’s schedule down the stretch is downright ominous. Bookended by series against the last-place Padres, the Diamondbacks have six consecutive series against clubs with their sights set on October. Heading into Los Angeles and getting swept is a tough way to begin an already difficult September. Arizona will have to make the most of this upcoming Padres series to turn their fortunes back in the right direction.

Atlanta Braves

Grade: C-
Record: 76-60, 1st in NL East
Games remaining: 26 (13 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 6-12)
Biggest series: 3 @ PHI (Sept. 28-30)

Despite holding first place, the Braves have looked somewhat flat of late, dropping five of their last nine to clubs they should beat. Atlanta only has two days off the rest of the way, including a west coast road trip. Their penultimate series against the Mets in New York will be key for building momentum into the final set against the second-place Phillies.

Colorado Rockies

Grade: C-
Record: 74-62, 2nd in NL West, 3rd in wild-card
Games remaining: 26 (17 home)
Longest road trip: 9 games (Sept. 14-23)
Biggest series: 3 @ ARI (Sept. 21-23)

Aside from nine games against the Giants and Nationals, the Rockies only face playoff contenders the rest of the way and, as far as easy series go, San Francisco and Washington aren’t pushovers. The Rockies do get to play an inordinate amount of games in their hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, though. That includes an upcoming series against the Dodgers, who will presumably play without closer Kenley Jansen after he experienced heart troubles earlier in Denver.

Seattle Mariners

Grade: C
Record: 76-61, 3rd in AL West, 3rd in wild-card
Games remaining: 25 (11 home)
Longest road trip: 10 games (Sept. 13-23)
Biggest series: 3 vs. OAK (Sept. 24-26)

Hopefully, the Mariners aren’t prone to homesickness, as their 10-game road trip is tied for the longest on this list, and features the first-place Astros right in the middle. Working in their favor, the Mariners have split the season series against their division rival, going 8-8 to date. In order to break their MLB-leading 16-year playoff drought, they’ll not only have to beat up on the Orioles and Padres, but they’ll have to improve on their .500 record against the Rangers as well.

New York Yankees

Grade: C+
Record: 86-51, 2nd in AL East, 1st in wild-card
Games remaining: 25 (9 home)
Longest road trip: 9 games (Sept. 3-12)
Biggest series: 3 @ BOS (Sept. 28-30)

The Yankees seem poised to claim that top wild-card spot, but they don’t have a cakewalk to get there. Starting off by visiting the Athletics and Mariners – both of whom are in must-win mode – New York could stumble in early September. Yankees fans will be hoping that their final series against the Red Sox will actually mean something, but New York will have to beat up Boston during a three-game set from Sept. 18-20 in order to make some magic happen.

Boston Red Sox

Grade: C+
Record: 94-44, 1st in AL East
Games remaining: 24 (15 home)
Longest road trip: 6 games (Sept. 18-23)
Biggest series: 3 @ NYY (Sept. 18-20)

The Red Sox will have a chance to put the necessary distance between them and the Yankees when they visit New York from Sept. 18-20. Aside from that, it’s a pretty average schedule, with possible ALCS previews scheduled against the Astros and indians.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Grade: B-
Record: 75-62, 1st in NL West
Games remaining: 25 (12 home)
Longest road trip: 10 games (Sept. 7-16)
Biggest series: 3 @ ARI (Sept. 24-26)

The Dodgers don’t have a particularly easy path the rest of the way, but it’s definitely easier than the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Los Angeles gets to take on the Mets and Reds early in the month, with a series against the Padres near the end. In fact, the Dodgers are almost entirely in charge of their own fate, with their only difficult remaining series coming against division rivals – other than a four-game stop in St. Louis to face the resurrected Cardinals.

Chicago Cubs

Grade: B-
Record: 81-55, 1st in NL Central
Games remaining: 26 (13 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 3-9)
Biggest series: 3 vs. STL (Sept. 28-30)

The Cubs will almost definitely wind up with the best record in the Senior Circuit, and their path to get there is relatively simple. 10 of Chicago’s final 16 games are against the Reds, White Sox, or Pirates. The only division rival they face is the Cardinals in a three-game set to end the campaign. If the Cubs can make hay during the previous four sets, that Cardinals series might not even matter to them.

St. Louis Cardinals

Grade: B
Record: 76-61, 3rd in NL Central, 2nd in wild-card
Games remaining: 25 (16 home)
Longest road trip: 6 games (Sept. 3-9)
Biggest series: 3 @ CHC (Sept. 28-30)

The first half of the month shouldn’t be an obstacle for the Cardinals, as they take on the Nationals, Tigers, and Pirates. However, as it gets deeper into September, and the games are magnified, sets against the Dodgers, Braves, and Brewers could get tricky. Either way, that final series against Chicago will mean something for them, as they either go for the division or try to finalize their claim for the top wild-card spot.

Oakland Athletics

Grade: B+
Record: 82-56, 2nd in AL West, 2nd in wild-card
Games remaining: 24 (12 home)
Longest road trip: 6 games (Sept. 11-16, Sept. 24-30)
Biggest series: 3 vs. NYY (Sept. 3-5)

Aside from the Yankees, the Athletics play eminently beatable teams the rest of the way and have four days off. Their second hardest set is against the Rays, who will still likely have a small window to October when they host the A’s. After that, their third hardest series may be against the Mariners at the end of the month. However, Seattle could be out of the wild-card race by then.

Milwaukee Brewers

Grade: A-
Record: 77-61, 2nd in NL Central, 1st in wild-card
Games remaining: 24 (15 home)
Longest road trip: 6 games (Sept. 21-26)
Biggest series: 3 @ STL (Sept. 24-26)

The Brewers are rolling after winning their fourth consecutive series, and they could keep that up through the final month if they take down the visiting Cubs this week. Their only remaining tough games are six against the Cubs and three against St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Other than that, Milwaukee should be able to cruise into the postseason against the Giants, Pirates, Reds, and Tigers. Whether they challenge Chicago for the division or slip to the second wild-card spot seems to be the biggest question.

Philadelphia Phillies

Grade: A-
Record: 72-64, 2nd in NL East, 5th in wild-card
Games remaining: 26 (12 home)
Longest road trip: 8 games (Sept. 20-27)
Biggest series: 4 @ ATL (Sept. 28-30)

The next five series for Philly mean ostensibly nothing for their opponents, unless the Marlins, Mets, and Nationals want to play spoiler against a division rival. That being said, their final 11 games are against either the first-place Braves – who will almost definitely still be fighting at that point – and the Rockies – who are in a hotly-contested NL West. The opportunity for Philadelphia is there, but they’ll likely have to improve on their 5-7 record against Atlanta to pull it off.

Tampa Bay Rays

Grade: A-
Record: 73-63, 3rd in AL East, 4th in wild-card
Games remaining: 26 (16 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 13-23)
Biggest series: 3 vs. OAK (Sept. 24-26)

When Blake Snell said he could see this team “making a playoff push,” there was an impulse to chuckle and respond “such a sweet kid.” However, all the makings of a Cinderella story – similar to what the club pulled off in 2011 – are there. Sure the roster bears no resemblance to that Joe Maddon-led club, but 10 total games remaining against the directionless Blue Jays certainly bode well for Kevin Cash’s chances to recreate the magic of that September run from seven years ago.

Cleveland Indians

Grade: A
Record: 77-59, 1st in AL Central
Games remaining: 26 (12 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 6-12, Sept. 24-30)
Biggest series: 3 vs. BOS (Sept. 21-23)

The Indians’ entire 2018 schedule could have probably been marked down as an ‘A’, as Cleveland is in a division where the Twins – at 10 games under .500 and a minus-59 run-differential – are their biggest competition. They’ll have a potential playoff preview against the Red Sox near the end of the month and perhaps a tricky series against the Rays around the corner. But, other than that, the Royals, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox, and Royals shouldn’t stand in their way, and the addition of Josh Donaldson certainly won’t hurt.

Houston Astros

Grade: A+
Record: 84-53, 1st in AL West
Games remaining: 25 (12 home)
Longest road trip: 7 games (Sept. 24-30)
Biggest series: 3 @ BOS (Sept. 7-9)

Aside from an early three-game set against the Red Sox early in the month and an interleague series against the Diamondbacks, Houston shouldn’t have any trouble at all hosting the Twins, Mariners, and Angels down the stretch. Finishing up their 2018 campaign on a seven-game road trip sounds suboptimal until you realize those final tilts are against the Blue Jays and historically-bad Orioles.

(Pictures courtesy: Getty Images)

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