Three American League East teams made the playoffs this season, but only two will move on the American League Division Series.
That second club will be determined Tuesday night, when the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles battle in a winner-take-all AL Wild Card Game at Rogers Centre. The victor gets an ALDS date with the Texas Rangers, while the AL East champion Boston Red Sox will take on the Cleveland Indians in the other ALDS series.
Blue Jays-Orioles should be a thriller, as the homer-happy clubs finished with identical 89-73 records this season. So, who has the edge? Let’s break it down.
Where and when: Rogers Centre, 8 p.m. ET
Head-to-head series: 10-9 Blue Jays
Pitching matchup: Marcus Stroman, RHP (9-10, 4.37) vs. Chris Tillman, RHP (16-6, 3.77)
Pitching is by no means the Orioles’ strength, but believe it or not, they have the edge here. Tillman had a very solid 2016 campaign and actually posted better numbers on the road, going 8-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 14 starts. After using up Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada over the weekend, the Jays turn to Stroman, who was the team’s Opening Day starter but is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in four starts against Baltimore this season.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis, 3B Josh Donaldson, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, DH Jose Bautista, C Russell Martin, SS Troy Tulowitzki, RF Michael Saunders, CF Kevin Pillar, LF Ezequiel Carrera
Orioles: RF Michael Bourn, CF Adam Jones, 3B Manny Machado, DH Mark Trumbo, C Matt Wieters, 1B Chris Davis, 2B Jonathan Schoop, LF Hyun Soo Kim, SS J.J. Hardy
Toronto and Baltimore boast two of the most potent offenses in baseball, and both live on the long ball: The Orioles led Major League Baseball with 253 homers, while the Jays ranked third with 221. Baltimore’s three-headed monster of Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis and Manny Machado could pose big problems for Stroman, but Toronto has a better lineup top to bottom that has more postseason experience as a result of last year’s playoff run.
Advantage: Blue Jays
Prediction: Blue Jays 8, Orioles 6
The Jays’ decision to start Stroman is a bit puzzling. The O’s have been counted out all year, so they’ll also enter Toronto with a big chip on their shoulders. But Toronto has been here before, and Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Co. will rise to the occasion yet again in front of a raucous home crowd to set up another ALDS rumble with the Rangers.
Thumbnail photo via Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports Images