Two games separate the first-place Twins from the Indians in the race atop the American League Central Division, and things are about to get even more interesting the next few weeks.
There are two ways to look at it:
- Can the Twins hold off the Indians?
- Can the Indians keep up with the Twins?
It's all the same in the end, but after playing dozens of games against the lowly Royals and Tigers in recent weeks, the Indians are now entering a gauntlet. Look at their next six series matchups:
- July 30-Aug. 1: Houston Astros (home, 3 games)
- Aug. 2-4: Los Angeles Angels (home, 3 games)
- Aug. 5-7: Texas Rangers (home, 3 games)
- Aug. 8-11: Minnesota Twins (away, 4 games)
- Aug. 12-14: Boston Red Sox (home, 3 games)
- Aug. 15-18: New York Yankees (away, 4 games)
Considering they have to face Astros All-Star pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole this week, the Indians will have their hands full before facing two solid teams in the Angels and Rangers and then facing a murderer's row of the Twins, Red Sox and Yankees.
Can the Indians keep up is probably the better way to look at the division race, especially since that while the Indians are facing Houston and the Angels, who are 10-6 since the All-Star break, the Twins will be facing much easier competition.
- July 30-Aug. 1: Miami Marlins (away, 3 games)
- Aug. 2-4: Kansas City Royals (home, 3 games)
That, however, leads into 10 straight brutally tough matchups for Minnesota against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, the division collision against the Indians, and two games against Christian Yelich and the Brewers.
Cleveland certainly has a more difficult next few weeks. If they're still within two games of Minnesota it'll speak volumes about how good they are. If they're back to 5-6 games out of the lead, then the Twins will be massive favorites to win the division since they'll have 26 more games against the White Sox, Tigers and Royals.
Reminder: We'll be paying close attention to trade rumors Monday-Wednesday, with the MLB trade deadline hitting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.