Can the Rally Chicken spur the Indians to the AL wild-card?
Prompted by rookie reliever Cody Allen’s nickname, “Chicken Al,” Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson brought a live chicken wearing a Cleveland “C” cape onto the field during batting practice prior to Wednesday night’s game.
The Indians then went out and beat the Orioles 6-4 to complete a series win and move ahead of Baltimore into fourth place in the American League wild-card race, 3 1/2 games behind the second-place Rays. Cody the Rally Chicken, it seems, did her job (though catcher Yan Gomes going 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored, and Allen himself turning in 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief, striking out two of the four men he faced, didn’t hurt).
So what are the chances of the Indians and their Rally Chicken actually claiming that second wild-card spot? Better than you might think. Cleveland was lousy in August, going 12-16 and scoring just 3.3 runs per game, but its pitching remained stingy, and its remaining schedule contains just six games against a team with a winning record, that team being the 72-67 Royals, against whom the Tribe has gone 8-5 thus far this season. The Indians have a combined .681 winning percentage this season against the five teams remaining on their schedule (they haven’t faced the Mets, who come to Cleveland on Friday), and 10 of their remaining 23 games are against the Astros and White Sox, against whom they have gone 13-3 thus far.
Meanwhile, the Rays, whom Cleveland is chasing, have series remaining against the Red Sox, Rangers (four games), Orioles (also four games) and Yankees, and will thus face winning teams in 14 of their final 24 games. Tampa Bay snapped its recent skid with wins against the Angels the last two nights, and has seen Wil Myers and Jeremy Hellickson snap out of their recent funks, while the Indians offense has yet to show such convincing signs of life. Still, the schedule, at the very least, is favorable for Cleveland.
Indeed, Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report gives the Indians a better chance of claiming the second-wild card spot than the Yankees, who lead them by a game in the standings. That chance is just 13 percent, but it’s the best of any team in baseball not currently in a playoff position. Besides, to the best of my knowledge, no other team has a rally chicken.