Here we are. Finally, after a long 162 games we have arrived at the playoffs. Tomorrow night the Jays and O’s will face off in a one game wild card, which is a format I LOVE. It gives the victor the feeling of actually making it to the party, while the loser goes back home to writers and local radio asking why you didn’t win the division in the first place. It also features two AL East teams who hate each other, which makes this even better.
What is great about this matchup compared to the NL wildcard, is that both of these lineups are great. If you’re the type of guy who hates a pitchers duel, than this is the game for you. Rather than pick apart these lineups up and down, I believe that the run differential over the season will give us a clear picture since both lineups are so similar. First both of these lineups are in the top 15 of the MLB, with the O’s at 11 and the Jays at 5. They both hit well and both score a lot of runs. However…at home Toronto is +38 while Baltimore is -11 on the road. The home field advantage that Toronto won is now sneaky HUGE.
The starters tomorrow are Marcus Stroman and Chris Tillman. First, the choice of Stroman is odd for the Jays. Francisco Liriano has been stellar posting a 2.92 ERA (147 ERA+) in 49 1/3 innings for the Jays, and was picked up at the deadline exactly for this type of game. Stroman however, has had a down year overall only posting a 9-10 record with a 4.37 ERA. What’s even more of a head scratcher, is that Stroman has been terrible against these same O’s all season. It’s great that the Jays have so much confidence in Stroman, but it is a big gamble to overlook his 2016 season. Tillman however, is without question the ace of the O’s rotation and had an excellent year going 16-6 with an 3.77 era. He is the best pitcher on the staff, and gets rewarded with the biggest game of the season.
The O’s have the clear advantage in the bullpen department when comparing these two squads. Baltimore’s pen is one of the best in the MLB. While Toronto’s pen has been very serviceable it does not compare to the O’s. But it’s the closers that matter the most in these one and done playoffs. Zach Britton has posted INSANE numbers this season and in my opinion deserves the CY Young award for them. The O’s have the ability to bring Britton in for six outs if they need too which is a nice option to live and die on. The Jays just cannot do that since Osuna has struggled in September. This past week highlighted these struggles with three blown saves in a row. Overall, Baltimore has the advantage in the pitching makeup. They can afford to be aggressive with their bullpen, while the Jays just do not have that luxury. It is the tipping point in why they get the choice to advance to the ALDS in this preview.