Stretch Run in the Midwest League
Today starts the final push of the 2013 regular season as the Chiefs (and the entire Western Division) are scheduled to play 40 games in 41 days. The Chiefs will alternate road and home series (3 at Cedar Rapids/3 vs. Kane County/4 at Quad Cities) before a 7-game homestand against Burlington and Wisconsin August 3-9. The Chiefs then play 3 in Clinton before the final off day of the season on August 13.
This stretch can make or break a season. The 2009 Chiefs were 48-45 at a similar spot in the season and used a 16-3 run to grab first place by early August and cruise to an 81-57 record to make the playoffs, finishing the season on a 33-12 run. On the flip side the 2008 team was in playoff contention at 51-48 coming off a July 22 off day but plummeted to a 9-29 finish and landed at 60-77 on the final day of the season.
The race to the playoffs should be a fun one in the Western Division. Cedar Rapids and Beloit have dominated all season and they are in the top two spots again this half. If it finishes that way, the 3rd and 4th place teams this half will go tot he playoffs. (Bottom line, finish among the top two non-CR/Beloit teams). Right now Quad Cities is in the top playoff spot, 1.5 games ahead of the Chiefs. Peoria is in turn 1 game up on Clinton and 3 games up on Burlington & Wisconsin. For the purposes of this post we wont include 7-22 Kane County as having realistic playoff aspirations.
Of the 40 games left for the Chiefs, 20 are at home and 20 are on the road. The Chiefs have a tough 11 games left against Cedar Rapids, the best record in the division, but none against Beloit. Peoria hosts Burlington 7 times, plays 3 at and vs. Clinton, 3 at and vs. Wisconsin, 4 at Quad Cities and 3 at and vs. last place Kane County. Overall that is a favorable schedule. Consider: Quad Cities still has 13 games combined against Cedar Rapids & Beloit while Clinton has 14 against the first half playoff teams. Wisconsin has the least with 8, all against Beloit and Burlington has 10 left.
The four games against Quad Cities next week (July 30-August 2) and then the six games against Clinton in August could be the 10 most pivotal, especially if tie breakers get involved. Here are the Chiefs current records against the other playoff contenders: Burlington 4-3, Clinton 4-6, Quad Cities 9-5, Wisconsin 7-4. Bottom line is the Chiefs need to find a way to win some road games and as long as the pitching and defense hold up, I like their chances.