MLB Postseason is Baseball at its finest. The 2016 playoffs begin with the American League Wild Card game, as two AL East teams square off at the Rogers Centre: The Toronto Blue Jays hosting the Baltimore Orioles.
Both teams finished with an identical record (89-73) during the regular season, leading the wild card standings for most of the way in the second half of the season, while the Boston Red Sox took over first in the division. But the Blue Jays struggled offensively despite their big hitters down the stretch and especially in September, while the Orioles seem to be carrying a bit more momentum, firepower and quality at starting pitcher heading into the win-or-go-home game.
Previously this season: The Blue Jays have the slightest of edges, winning 10 of their 19 games this season. The Blue Jays won two of the three series played at home, but the Orioles won the last two games in Toronto leading up to this series, maybe giving them some sort of advantage.
Starting pitchers: Chris Tillman will be on the mound for the Orioles. Through 172 innings this season, he has a 3.77 ERA and a 1.285 WHIP, striking out 2.12 batters per nine innings. He’s started four times against the Blue Jays this season, and Baltimore have won all four games, giving up a total of 10 runs. However, he has struggled over the years against many of the Blue Jays hitters, especially Troy Tulowitzki, who has a 1.712 OPS vs Tillman. Tillman has a 2.38 ERA in Toronto this season, two appearances.
Marcus Stroman will be pitching for the Blue Jays. He has a 4.37 ERA this season and a 1.29 WHIP, slightly worse than in the past. He’s pitched four times against the Orioles this season, three of those games ending up in losses, including 4-0 on September 29, with Stroman giving up 4 runs in 7 innings of work. He’s struggled to do anything against Mark Trumbo, with a 1.136 OPS facing Stroman. He is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this season.
Hot bats: Toronto hasn’t had too many hot hitting players recently, with only two having an above .800 OPs over the last 30 days: Surprisingly, Jose Bautista, batting .261 with 5 home runs in the last 27 games, has been their best hitter after a weak season, probably his last in Toronto. For the Orioles, it’s been Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters. Trumbo has six home runs in his last 25 games, while Wieters has five as well in 23 appearances, following a disappointing season.
Both teams clinched the postseason spot on the final day of the season, so everyone is throwing around the term “battle-tested” heading into their 20th encounter of 2016. In a sport and season of interchanging streaks and momentum, the Orioles are probably the hotter team, winning 7 of their last 9 games, playing their last six on the road, including at Toronto. The Blue Jays did win their last two games of the season against the Boston Red Sox, but lost four of five before October.