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10 Degrees: Breaking down the schedules for all 19 MLB playoff contenders

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports

The baseball season entered its final quarter last week, and now it's as much about who's healthy as who's talented. And so the dreaded schedule, the bane of many, comes into greater focus as a king-maker or a deal-breaker.

Baseball's two richest teams find themselves at the opposite end of the scheduling spectrum. Presenting, then, a complete breakdown of the stretch schedules for all 19 – 19! – playoff contenders, going from hardest to easiest, and starting with the ...

1. New York Yankees
Record: 63-59, second place in AL East by seven games, trail second wild card by 3½ games
Run differential: -37
Opponents' winning percentage: .509
Home/road: 23/17
Off-days: Aug. 18, Sept. 1, 8
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 22 of 40
Key series: at Baltimore, Sept. 12-14
Overview: This isn't the murderous schedule of toughest-schedules past, a meatgrinder with a few series against .600 ballclubs, mainly because Bud Selig's Parity Quest has left us not only without a single .600 team but with practically every team hovering in the neighborhood of .500. The Yankees earn this honor more because of their schedule's peripheral attributes. They finish the season with 21 games in 20 days. Of their final 30 games, 27 are against the AL East – and the three others against the surging Royals. And after this week, when they need to beat up on the Astros and White Sox, the Yankees' opponent winning percentage leaps to .522. It's rough when the second-worst team they'll play are the ...

2. Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 61-62, fourth place in AL East by 10 games, trail second wild card by 6½ games
Run differential: +23
Opponents' winning percentage: .512
Home/road: 19/19
Off-days: Aug. 18, Sept. 8, 18, 22
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 28 of 38
Key series: vs. Detroit, Aug. 19-21
Overview: There's a perfectly decent chance the Rays play themselves out of contention over the next 10 days. First they host Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and David Price. Then it's three in Toronto and four in Baltimore. And while it's folly to count out the Rays, the worst team they face is Boston, and nearly three-quarters of their games are against better-than-average teams. They'll get plenty of rest in September, and they don't leave the Eastern Time Zone for the remainder of the season. Both will be moot, barring the sort of run needed likewise by the …

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Aroldis Chapman has 26 saves for the Reds. (Getty Images)

Aroldis Chapman has 26 saves for the Reds. (Getty Images)

3. Cincinnati Reds
Record: 61-62, fourth place in NL Central by eight games, trail second wild card by four games
Run differential: +24
Opponents' winning percentage: .516
Home/road: 20/18
Off-days: Aug. 25, Sept. 1, 18, 22
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 29 of 38
Key series: at Pittsburgh, Aug. 29-31
Overview: Considering the Reds lag behind three teams in their division, not to mention two others in the wild-card standings, their award of the hardest stretch schedule in the NL is no prize. Joey Votto is still out, as is Brandon Phillips, as is Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman had a very un-Chapman-like Sunday in the type of blown game that lingers on the palate like burnt toast. The Reds need a defibrillator for their playoff hopes, and nine of 12 series against teams over .500 is more like cyanide. They now have the worst record among NL contenders, taking that spot from the …

4. Miami Marlins
Record: 62-62, third place in NL East by eight games, trail second wild card by 3½ games
Run differential: -26
Opponents' winning percentage: .500
Home/road: 15/23
Off-days: Aug. 18, 21, 28, Sept. 4, 22
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 21 of 38
Key series: at Los Angeles Angels, Aug. 25-27
Overview: Once they get past five games against the Rangers and Rockies this week, the Marlins' schedule turns brutal. They play 19 of 25 on the road, with a pair of three-city trips sandwiched around two series at home. Their out-of-division opponents are the Angels and first-place Milwaukee. And eight of their final 11 games come against the Nationals. They weren't much of a hope to make it in the first place, nowhere near the same stratosphere as the ...

5. Los Angeles Angels
Record: 72-50, tied for AL West lead and first AL wild card lead
Run differential: +87
Opponents' winning percentage: .494
Home/road: 17/23
Off-days: Sept. 1, 25
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 21 of 40
Key series: at Oakland, Sept. 22-24
Overview: For a team that plays six games against both the Rangers and Astros to find themselves this high up the rough-schedule list must mean they've got some trying moments. The four-city, 10-day trip is a fun one: Houston to Minnesota to Cleveland to Texas and back home. The coup de grace: Over the next 42 days, the Angels get only two off. Other teams cram 40 games into the same time thanks to double headers, but no team gets as few days without baseball as the Angels. It's three fewer than the ...

6. Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 64-61, third place in AL East by 7½ games, trail second wild card by four games
Run differential: +9
Opponents' winning percentage: .501
Home/road: 23/14
Off-days: Aug. 18, 21, 28, Sept. 1, 11
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 19 of 37
Key series: at New York Yankees, Sept. 18-21
Overview: It's going to be really nice to be so well-rested, because the Blue Jays will need it. Their 17-game stretch to end the season looks vicious: Tampa Bay, at Baltimore, at New York, Seattle, Baltimore. The good news: Toronto is a far better home team, and more than 60 percent of its games come at Rogers Centre. Which, like the Blue Jays' copious days off, they need. Since peaking June 6, the Blue Jays are 26-37. It's 10 games worse over the same period than the …

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Felix Hernandez is 13-4 with a 1.99 ERA this season. (Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez is 13-4 with a 1.99 ERA this season. (Getty Images)

7. Seattle Mariners
Record: 67-56, third place in AL West by 5½ games, lead second wild card
Run differential: +99
Opponents' winning percentage: .495
Home/road: 15/24
Off-days: Aug. 21, 28, Sept. 11
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 20 of 39
Key series: at Los Angeles Angels, Sept. 15-18
Overview: Because the Mariners have shown themselves to be a superior road team – only the Dodgers have a better winning percentage than Seattle's .579 away from home – the prospect of spending nearly 60 percent of their time on the road isn't as daunting as it might be for others. Still, with only one off-day in September, not to mention a cruel 11-game Los Angeles-Houston-Toronto road trip, the Mariners will need to claw to keep the second wild-card spot they currently occupy. The last five series – A's, at Angels, at Astros, at Blue Jays, Angels – could determine their fate, a similar stretch to that faced by the …

8. Milwaukee Brewers
Record: 70-55, lead NL Central
Run differential: +44
Opponents' winning percentage: .498
Home/road: 19/18
Off-day: Aug. 18, 21, 28, Sept. 15, 22
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 22 of 37
Key series: at Pittsburgh, Sept. 19-21
Overview: Lots of time off doesn't mitigate the two three-city road trips the Brewers must endure. The San Diego-San Francisco-Chicago jaunt is more a travel pain than something likely to induce a long skid. The St. Louis-Pittsburgh-Cincinnati voyage at the end of the season is the sort that could decide one of the most hotly contested division raises in the game. For now, the Brewers have surged ahead of the other three, and for home-field advantage they trail only the …

9. Washington Nationals
Record: 69-53, lead NL East
Run differential: +92
Opponents' winning percentage: .490
Home/road: 20/20
Off-days: Aug. 28, Sept. 4, 22
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 23 of 40
Key series: at Los Angeles Dodgers, Sept. 1-3
Overview: Fun in August and September is not a pair of three-city road trips sandwich around a six-game homestand that includes a series against the team chasing you in first place. The schedule gods gifted the Nationals just that, as well as a seven-games-in-six-days stretch to end the season. If there is a ray of light, it's that Washington will end its season with 24 straight games facing NL East foes, against whom the Nationals are playing .571 ball this season. Beating up on the East is a favorite pastime as well of the …

10. Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 64-61, third place in NL Central by 5½ games, trail second wild card by 1½ games
Run differential: +6
Opponents' winning percentage: .496
Home/road: 18/20
Off-days: Aug. 21, 28, Sept. 4, 15
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 19 of 38
Key series: at Atlanta, Sept. 22-25
Overview: Losers of five straight, and it gets no better over the next two weeks: Atlanta, at Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, at St. Louis. If the Pirates can get Andrew McCutchen back and take advantage of a mid-September schedule lapse that includes 13 games against the Cubs, Phillies and Red Sox, perhaps they'll find themselves where they are now: Still well within sniffing distance of a second consecutive postseason spot for a low-revenue team in the Midwest, a tremendous accomplishment also sought by the …

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Michael Brantley is hitting .321 with 80 RBIs. (Getty Images)

Michael Brantley is hitting .321 with 80 RBIs. (Getty Images)

11. Cleveland Indians
Record: 62-61, third place AL Central by six games, trail second wild card by five games
Run differential: +13
Opponents' winning percentage: .487
Home/road: 21/18
Off-days: Aug. 18, 25, Sept. 25
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 14 of 39
Key series: vs. Detroit, Sept. 1-4
Overview: Thirty games in 30 days. From Aug. 26 to Sept. 24, the Indians don't have a single off-day, and they play 30 games in 30 days, which is some kind of punishment for the team with the most relief innings in the AL (and only two-thirds of an inning behind the woebegone Rockies for the major league lead). Yes, the Indians get the recharge with a four-team, 11-game homestand … which precedes a three-team, 10-game road trip that begins with a trip to the team ahead of the Indians in the standings, the …

12. Detroit Tigers
Record: 66-56, second place in AL Central by 1½ games, trail second wild card by half-game
Run differential: +34
Opponents' winning percentage: .488
Home/road: 20/18
Off-days: Aug. 18, 25, Sept. 11, 18
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 19 of 38
Key series: at Kansas City, Sept. 19-21
Overview: This deep into the season, the words "second place," with regards to the Tigers, still look incongruous, particularly when it's Kansas City behind which they straggle. August has been an unkind month to the Tigers already, and it's fixing to get tougher, with 15 of their next 18 games on the road, including a stretch from Aug. 23-30 during which they play a pair of doubleheaders with their next off-day a week and a half later. It's a vital stretch, especially in that the AL wild-card race makes that of the NL look like a joke, seeing that a 1½-game deficit is all that stands between a spot and the barely-over-.500 …

13. Atlanta Braves
Record: 64-60, second place in NL East by six games, trail second wild card by 1½ games
Run differential: +3
Opponents' winning percentage: .489
Home/road: 16/22
Off-days: Aug. 25, Sept. 4, 11, 18
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 19 of 38
Key series: at Washington, Sept. 8-10
Overview: They've got a wicked road trip, too, with 19 of their next 25 away from home. Which, considering the Braves' road struggles, is the very thing they do not need with the Nationals pulling away in the East. Not all is lost. Mother Nature allowed the Braves to keep their gift of perfectly spread-out off-days, one a week, essentially, which can help Atlanta rejigger its rotation and rest its bullpen. On top of that, the Braves finish the season with 10 games at home and a road trip to Philadelphia, whose ballpark is going to be so empty at the end of September the Braves may feel like they're visiting the …

14. Oakland A's
Record: 73-51, tied for AL West lead and first AL wild card lead
Run differential: +161
Opponents' winning percentage: .488
Home/road: 20/18
Off-days: Aug. 18, 21, Sept. 4, 15
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 16 of 38
Key series: at Los Angeles Angels, Aug. 28-31
Overview: The only above-.500 teams the A's play are in their division, and they're a couple of good ones. A's-Angels will happen 10 times over the next six weeks and A's-Mariners six, a good test for a team that has frittered away its division lead in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Thankfully for Oakland, it still gets the Rangers twice, the Astros twice, the Phillies and the Mets for a pair to begin this week, when the skid needs to end. A Rangers-Phillies-Angels-Rangers stretch to end the season – the first three series of which are at home – gives Oakland the sort of breathing room felt by a team in a far more tenuous situation, the …

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Hunter Pence is hitting .284 with 82 runs scored this season. (Getty Images)

Hunter Pence is hitting .284 with 82 runs scored this season. (Getty Images)

15. San Francisco Giants
Record: 65-58, second place in NL West by 3½ games, lead second wild card
Run differential: +30
Opponents' winning percentage: .480
Home/road: 17/21
Off-days: Aug. 18, Sept. 4, 8, 18
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 15 of 38
Key series: at Los Angeles Dodgers, Sept. 22-24
Overview: At first, they were ranked even lower, thanks to their division looking like haves and have-nots, with no distinct middle class. Two series against the Rockies, two more against the Diamondbacks, a pair with the Padres and even a soiree this week with the Cubs: those are the dreams of which stretch schedules are made. Except the 15 games against .500-plus teams the Giants do play are chores: Washington, Milwaukee, Detroit and then a pair of series against the Dodgers. The Giants must use their off-days wisely, keep playing as well on the road as they have and take advantage of those games against bad teams so the good ones don't force any more distance between them and the …

16. St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 66-57, second place in NL Central, lead first wild card
Run differential: -8
Opponents' winning percentage: .481
Home/road: 19/20
Off-day: Aug. 21, 28, Sept. 15, 25
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 13 of 39
Key series: at Milwaukee, Sept. 4-7
Overview: Not only is the Cardinals' volatile because of the number of teams chasing them, it's the fact that they're nine games over .500 with a negative run differential that screams regression. That said, this schedule has a German chocolate here, an angel food there and a mille-feuille to boot. Minus two series against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the Cardinals don't have a game over .500, and seeing as they've got the Cubs twice, plus the Phillies, Rockies and Diamondbacks, any sort of a meltdown would be epic to see. Same goes for the club with the single largest division lead of any, the …

17. Baltimore Orioles
Record: 70-52, lead AL East Run differential: +54
Opponents' winning percentage: .485
Home/road: 21/19
Off-days: Aug. 21, Sept. 11, 18
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 14 of 40
Key series: vs. Tampa Bay, Aug. 25-28
Overview: The next time the Orioles play a team over .500 isn't until Sept. 12, nearly a month away, and it's no wonder they're in the catbird's seat. Baltimore being there without Matt Wieters and practically without Chris Davis is another bravissimo Buck Showalter production, and getting to tack on with the panoply of mediocrity coming Baltimore's way should be especially fun. The best team Baltimore faces, record-wise, is New York. That's the sort of fortune for which any team could wish, even one with an easier schedule like the …

18. Kansas City Royals
Record: 68-55, lead AL Central
Run differential: +29
Opponents' winning percentage: .472
Home/road: 20/19
Off-days: Aug. 21, Sept. 4, 18
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 16 of 39
Key series: at Detroit, Sept. 8-10
Overview: The easiest schedule in the AL belongs to the team with the longest playoff drought in the major leagues. Twenty-eight years without a postseason not only tests a fan base but inures it to disappointment, and so even though the Royals own a 1½-game lead over Detroit, are selling playoff tickets and have a magic-number Twitter countdown, nothing – not even the easiest schedule – allows them to approach the last quarter of the season with ease. It should be smooth sailing through Sept. 3, when the combined winning percentage of Kansas City's opponents is .433. From then on, it's .498, including two series with chief foe Detroit and another at Cleveland. Cardiologists: Get ready for a busy September. Everybody is going to be watching the Royals, unlike Angelenos who are blacked out from seeing the …

19. Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 70-56, lead NL West
Run differential: +50
Opponents' winning percentage: .465
Home/road: 21/15
Off-days: Aug. 18, 25, 28, Sept. 4, 11, 25
Games vs. teams .500 or better: 9 of 36
Key series: vs. Washington, Sept. 1-3
Overview: Lowest winning percentage among remaining teams? Check. Second-highest percentage of home games? Check. Most off-days? Check? Fewest opponents at .500 or better? Check. If there were any question that the Dodgers have the moistest of cake walks, leave them at the valet stand. The worst part of their September is a three-city road trip, and those are in San Francisco (where they're 4-2 with a pair of one-run losses this year), Colorado (the dregs of the NL) and Chicago (working valiantly to secure a top-five draft pick). One series against the Nationals and two against the Giants represent the hardest challenges for the Dodgers. The next-best teams: the Padres and the Mets. It's a dream stretch, one for which the …

20. New York Yankees would pay anything if scheduling were a commodity. Since it isn't, the Yankees must live with their reality and try to change it. Because they have far and away the worst run differential among contenders this season at -37, a sign that they're:

a) Really well-managed by Joe Girardi
b) Abundantly lucky
c) Due for regression

Perhaps the question deserves a d) All of the above. The Yankees continue to skate by, happy for Michael Pineda's return, hopeful Masahiro Tanaka can do the same and provide the sort of rotation-stabilizing force they so desperately need. Their deadline machinations were a tourniquet, but a wound like the Yankees sport in their rotation needs more than a rag pulled tight.

The easiest stretch comes this week, with a series against the Astros followed by a visit from the White Sox. Then it gets mean, the big boys lining up, wanting to slay another foe and whittle the race down to a manageable size. Because in the era of parity, it's one OK team after another, beating each other up, hovering around .500, staying in it long enough to make things muddled as ever.

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