For four teams, two from each league, a 162 game season has boiled down to this one-night showdown to keep their respective seasons alive. Certainly, there has been mixed reactions ever since the acceptance of four Wild Card teams has become the law of the land, but it undeniably sets an exciting stage at the beginning of every October, fairness disregarded. The Wild Card debate is one for another day.
Tonight’s Wild Card game is the American League matchup between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. This is certainly an interesting matchup for a number of reasons. It looked like the Blue Jays were going to fight for the American League East division title, but a bumpy September, going 11-16, sent the Blue Jays into a battle for a Wild Card spot, narrowly clinging on to the second spot and beating out the Tigers. Overall the Blue Jays have had a good pitching staff, posting an ERA in the top 10 in all of baseball. On the offensive side, the Blue Jays have touted an impressive resume, hitting 221 home runs, which is good for 4th in all of baseball, meaning the Jays live and die by the home run because their batting average is less than average and near the bottom of the league. Living and dying by the long ball was never more evident than in the month of September when they were struggling to score runs and win games. Toronto will throw Marcus Stroman (9-10, 3.71 FIP, 7.32 K/9, 1.29 WHIP). The Jays are 6-4 in their last 10.
The Orioles match up similarly with the Blue Jays in that they both rely heavily on the home run to fuel its offense. Opposite of the Jays, though, the Orioles pitching staff (primarily its starting rotation) falls below the average mark in terms of ERA at 4.22, and a BAA of .258. However, as previously mentioned, the Orioles are the best home run hitting team in baseball, blasting 253 bombs throughout the 162 game season. Baltimore went 16-11 over the month of September, and are 7-3 in their last 10. Chris Tillman will be on the bump for the O’s (16-6, 4.23 FIP, 7.33 K/9, 1.28 WHIP).
Both teams finished with the same record of 89-73, but the Jays won the season series 10-9, meaning the game will take place at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. For this one game matchup, I’ll take the Jays in Toronto, 6-4.
The game time is set for first pitch at 8:00 pm on TBS/SN
Reference: Baseball Reference, MLB.com, FanGraphs