The Major League Baseball postseason gets underway on Tuesday night as the Toronto Blue Jays play host to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wild Card Game.
These American League East Division rivals met 19 times during the regular season, with the Jays taking the series by a narrow 10-9, outscoring the O’s by 97-81, or basically by an average 5-4 margin.
Toronto won six of the 10 matchups held up in Canada. However, the Orioles won the final two games at Rogers Centre last Wednesday and Thursday by 3-2 and 4-0 scores.
The numbers show that this AL Wild Card Game is basically an even matchup, with the Jays slightly favored due to the home field advantage based on the overall outcomes of games held there between the two teams this season. But it’s definitely close.
There are reasons to like each of the teams to come out of this AL Wild Card Game victorious, moving on to face the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas in one of the American League Division Series beginning on Thursday afternoon at 4:30pm EDT.
The host Blue Jays went 46-35 at home this season, while the visiting Orioles fashioned just a 39-42 road mark. Advantage: Toronto
The Jays simply reach base more often, which should result in more scoring opportunities. Toronto was sixth in all of MLB with a cumulative .330 on-base percentage this season, compared to Baltimore’s 21st ranked .317 OBP mark. Advantage: Toronto
Neither one of these two clubs presses the issue much, with the Blue Jays swiping 54 bases all season, just 25th in baseball. However, the Orioles were at the very bottom of MLB with just 19 steals all season. Advantage: Even
These are basically a couple of power-hitting strikeout machines. The Orioles led all of MLB with 253 home runs, while the Blue Jays ranked fourth with their 221 long balls. They ranked 19th (Baltimore with 1,324) and 23rd (Toronto with 1,362) as far as whiffing. Advantage: Even
Defensively there is no clear advantage between the two teams. They have nearly identical club fielding percentages, and are fairly close in the number of errors committed over 162 games. Advantage: Even
With the AL Wild Card Game being a one-and-done format, pretty much every pitcher on the roster is likely to be available for both teams, which greatly expands the bullpen options for Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter and Toronto manager John Gibbons.
The Orioles have one of the game’s top closers in lefty Zach Britton, whose 0.54 ERA and 0.836 WHIP over 67 innings demonstrate that he was nearly untouchable. His 827 ERA+ reveals just how dominant he has actually been this season.
The Jays go with 21-year-old youngster Roberto Osuna to close games. While Osuna is younger and has less overall experience than Britton, it’s Osuna (7-6) who has appeared in more postseason games.
While the bullpens for both teams provide solid options, I prefer the O’s power-arm group that includes Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Darren O’Day to the Jays mix. Advantage: Baltimore
Taking the mound as tonight’s AL Wild Card Game starting pitchers will be 28-year-old righty Chris Tillman for the Orioles and 25-year-old right-hander Marcus Stroman for the Blue Jays.
Tillman went 16-6 while making 30 regular season starts. He allowed 155 hits across 172 innings pitched with a 140/66 K:BB ratio, with an ERA+ of 118 and a 4.23 FIP mark.
Stroman was 9-10 over his 32 starts, allowing 209 hits across 204 innings. He fashioned a 166/54 K:BB ratio with a 97 ERA+ and 3.71 FIP.
Stroman took the mound four times this year against the Orioles, with Baltimore coming out on the winning end of things three of the four times. He surrendered 18 earned runs on 33 hits over 23 innings.
Tillman faced the Jays three times this year, with the Orioles winning all three of his starts. He allowed seven earned runs on 15 hits over 16.2 innings in this outings. Advantage: Baltimore
The 60-year-old Showalter has been the Orioles’ manager for seven years now, guiding them to the postseason for a third time. He has an all-time managerial mark of 1,429-1,315 with four different organizations over 18 big league seasons.
The 54-year-old Gibbons is in his ninth overall season as a big league skipper with a 644-614 record. In this, his second stint as the Jays’ manager, he guided the club to the postseason for just the second time. Advantage: Baltimore
If this AL Wild Card game were being held in Camden Yards, my prediction would be for the Orioles to emerge victorious.
However, the Blue Jays have the home field up in Ontario province. Frankly, I think this is a dead-even matchup. Toss a coin. It should make for some great drama for all baseball fans.