And so we’re at the halfway point of the season – though the Sox have played 88 games and are past the 81-game mark.
The Sox are 45-43, 3.5 games behind the 48-39 Tigers and .5 games ahead of the 44-43 Twins.
So how many games will it take to win the A.L. Central? 90? 89, like last year, when the Sox beat the Twins in Game 163?
Ninety wins would certainly seem a lock to get a team into the playoffs. The Tigers would have to go 42-33 to get there, certainly a possible scenario. The Sox would have to go 45-29, which isn’t likely; the Twins would have to go 46-29.
Eighty-eight wins should put the Sox in great shape – just like it did last year, when they won 88 games and then beat the Twins in the tiebreaker. They would still have to go 43-31 to do that, but if Carlos Quentin comes back and is a reliable guy in the middle of the order, the Sox could get to that 88-win mark. Such a mark seems possible when you look at the Sox record over their last 25 games – 16-9 – but the Sox’ schedule is brutal after the All-Star break. They face the Yankees seven times – four at home – and Boston eight times. One late August and early September stretch takes them to Boston for four games, to New York for three, to Minnesota for three (the final three Sox games at the Metrodome unless they meet in the ALCS), to Wrigley for that make-up game on September 3, then four at home versus Boston. Doesn’t get much tougher than that. If the Sox can come out of that 15-game stretch 7-8 or 8-7, they should be fine. And something tells me the Sox will play well on that trip.
Then, of course, they travel to L.A. for three with the Angels and up to Seattle for three just after that stretch. And they finish the season with three games at Detroit, though they have played well at Comerica Park.
But remember, the Tigers also have a difficult schedule. They start the second half in New York, and still have to travel to Texas, go to Boston for four, play Tampa Bay seven times, host Toronto for four and go to L.A for three with the Angels.
The Twins have a more favorable schedule, having already finished with the Yankees and the Red Sox. But they do play Texas nine times, including six times at Texas, and
go to Toronto for four.
I think the Sox will have an over-.500 record after the break, but that 20-game stretch is brutal. Ninety wins – thanks to a 45-29 mark in the second half - probably isn’t going to happen. But if the Sox can still be in the race when they head to Detroit for that final series, they’ll take it.