With another MLB regular season in the books, it’s time for the postseason to begin, with the first game being the American League Wild Card game, taking place Tuesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto, with the Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) hosting the Baltimore Orioles (89-73) in a battle of AL East teams. SP Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA) is slated to get the start for the Orioles and SP Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) is set to take the mound for the home team.
The Orioles were only three games under .500 on the road this season, which isn’t that bad, so having to play in Toronto may not be a big disadvantage for them despite the Blue Jays being nine games over .500 at home.
I’ve got to give the advantage in starting pitching to Tillman, as Stroman didn’t live up to the expectations that some people had for him this season. Tillman hasn’t been going deep into games as of late, however. The last time he pitched more than 6 innings in a game was on August 11 when he went 7 innings at Oakland, allowing 5 hits and 2 earned runs. He didn’t last more than 6 innings in any of his four starts against the Blue Jays this season. Stroman, on the other hand, went 7 innings in each of his last two starts of the regular season, going 7 scoreless against the Yankees on September 24 and giving up 4 earned runs against the Orioles on September 29. In four starts against the Orioles, Stroman went 7 innings twice, but went just 3.2 innings and 5.1 innings in the other starts.
Given those stats, you can’t expect either starter to go deep into the game, so the bullpens will likely have an impact on the outcome. The Orioles have the definite advantage there, as their relievers finished the year with the third-lowest bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.40, and the Blue Jays’ 4.11 bullpen ERA was the 22nd best in the majors. Orioles closer Zach Britton led the American League with 47 saves, which was tied for the second-most in the majors. He did not have a blown save all year. RP Roberto Osuna served as Toronto’s closer for most of the season, notching 36 saves in 42 opportunities.
Offensively, the teams are pretty evenly matched, with both set up as power teams that don’t necessarily hit for a high average. The Orioles led the majors with 253 home runs, but the Blues Jays can also hit the long ball, as their 221 home runs were good for fourth in MLB. Orioles OF Mark Trumbo was the major league leader with 47 home runs while Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion was tied for third with 42 home runs.
Stroman will have to keep the Orioles’ bats quiet early in the game so Baltimore can’t get a lead to hand off to Britton in the latter innings of the ballgame because of he comes into the game in a save situation, that’ll be trouble for the Blue Jays if Britton’s season stats hold true in this game. It’ll be a close game, but I’ll pick the Blue Jays to win it.
The winning team moves on to play the AL West champion Texas Rangers in one ALDS on Thursday; the AL Central champion Indians play the AL East champion Red Sox in the other ALDS, which also begins Thursday.