Just when it looked like the Tigers might be away with a big lead in the American League Central, storm clouds have appeared on the horizon that could make their journey to a fourth straight division title a bit more difficult. I’m not referring to the bullpen rearing its ugly head, snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory just as the team was poised to sweep the Royals in Kansas City, although there’s that.
Once the All-Star break is over, the Tigers begin a grueling second-half schedule that starts out with 55 games in 56 days. The Tigers will play 41 of their 71 remaining games against teams that currently have at least a .500 record, 38 games are against division rivals.
Detroit has more games remaining than any other team, because the postponed games in April meant that they have played fewer games than any other team. The result is three double-headers, all against division rivals, and all on Saturdays with games scheduled both the day before and the day after.
Buster Olney wrote for ESPN Insider (subscription required) that the Tigers have the second-toughest schedule remaining among all the contenders in the major leagues. Only the Baltimore Orioles have a more difficult schedule remaining.The Indians schedule ranks 10th, and the Royals were 16th of 17 contenders. Olney wrote of the Tigers task, "It's a backbreaking schedule, really."
Among the reasons that Detroit’s schedule is more difficult are the number of games against tougher opponents, plus more total games, plus 34 home games and 37 on the road. The Oakland A’s have the easiest road the rest of the way, by Olney’s calculations.
Immediately after the break, the Tigers host the Indians in a four-game series that includes a day-night double-header on Saturday, including a make-up game for a contest that was rained out in April. The series is fairly critical for the Tribe, who find themselves struggling to stay relevant for the remainder of the season. Detroit then hits the road for three games in Arizona, and four in Anaheim against the Angels, who are the league’s hottest team recently.
Following a day off to return from the West Coast trip, the Tigers will play 20 games in 20 days, without a day off. That includes series at Yankee stadium, Toronto and Pittsburgh. Then their next 15 of 18 games are on the road. The end of that stretch begins a run of 17 games in 16 days when they host the Yankees, Giants, and Royals, with an eight-game road trip in between, all without a day off.
One team that the Tigers won’t be seeing for a while is Kansas City. The good news is that, if the Tigers can get through the first week of September in good shape, they’ll play their last 19 games against their four division rivals, with 13 of those in the friendly confines of Comerica Park.