They say that legends are made in October. I tend to agree with that. After 162 grueling games played, for four teams in the league, their playoff future hangs on the result of only one game. The winners move on to face the #1 seed in their respective leagues and the loser goes home. This road in the playoffs is a rough and emotional ride. But for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles, this is the situation they find themselves in and the path they have to take to try and make their World Series dreams a reality. So let’s take a look at both of these games.
Birds usually fly south in the winter, well for the birds of Baltimore, they are going north of the border to Canada to face off against the Toronto Blue Jays tonight at 8:00 EST in the Rogers Centre which is better known as the “Skydome”. Toronto made the playoffs last year and went as far as the ALCS before falling to The Kansas City Royals who would go on to win the whole thing. No one will ever forget the bat flip seen around the world by Jose Bautista which had the city of Toronto thinking that bigger things were in store. It just wasn’t meant to b, unfortunately for them. This year they find themselves back in the playoffs, except they’ll have to win one more game to advance to the ALDS to play The Texas Rangers. After a disappointing 2015 season following a very successful 2014 playoff run which took them to the ALCS, the Birds are back this year. They are back in the wild card 4 years after their first wild card win back in 2012, which was actually the first year that the wild card system was implemented. So I’m sure they understand what it takes to win this game. You know what else is ironic? They were also the road team in the game as well. Omen? Maybe. But this is why they play the game and for these two teams, this is the biggest game of the year so far.
Both of these teams are in the AL east which means they are very familiar with each other. Since the Blue Jays have the home game, we already know that they won the head to head matchups with the Orioles. But that stat is deceiving, because out of the 19 games between these two, the Blue Jays won 10 and the Orioles won 9. So it’s safe to say that these two teams are very equal, but the Orioles lost 6 of the 10 games played at the Rogers Centre which bodes well for the Blue Jays. If you are looking for home runs or a plethora of hits, this game is for you. The Orioles led the league with 253 home runs which include 6 guys who hit 20 or more home runs. Out of those 6 guys, 2 had 30 or more and one even had 47. Not to be outdone, the Blue Jays finished 4th in the league with 223 home runs and also has 6 guys with 20 or more home runs in their lineup. So I think it is safe to say that yes, there will be home runs, and I believe there will be quite a few hit tonight.
The O’s are throwing their ace Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA) against Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA). Now I understand the Orioles throwing their Ace on the hill, because if you go out, you want to go out using your best. The Blue Jays are not doing the same. Marcus Stroman has had a rough year after tearing his ACL and missing most of the 2015 season. He came back in September last year and won 4 starts and went 2-1 in the playoffs last year, so you would think that he’d be back to form this year. That’s just not the case which makes this decision even more questionable. I understand that they feel that the Orioles don’t hit righties as well as lefties, but here is a fact. It doesn’t matter; they are going to hit home runs regardless. Their lefty ace JA Happ is a 20 game winner and not only is he a 20 game winner, he is also undefeated against the Orioles this year (2-0 and 1 no decision). They also have Aaron Sanchez, a right hand pitcher that went 15-2 including 4 wins, 0 losses and 1 no decision against the Orioles, who could have pitched as well. Instead they start Stroman who has 2 losses, 1 win and 1 no decision against the Orioles. Maybe John Gibbons knows something that we don’t know, for his sake, I hope he does. Because if it was my decision, Aaron Sanchez starts tonight’s game.
As for the bats, look for Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis to try and power the Orioles to the win while Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion try to do the same for the Blue Jays. I feel that even though the long ball will be a big factor, I feel that the 3rd baseman of each respective team will be the difference makers. Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are probably #1 and #2(order doesn’t matter) in 3B ranks, although Nolan Arenado might have something to say about my opinion. And both can swing the lumber as well as play exemplary defense at the hot corner. Look for either one of them to make a play that will impact this game.
When it’s all said and done, I believe that the Orioles will follow in their 2012 footsteps and win a wild card game on the road and move on to face the Rangers. I wish I could predict a score, but I am pretty sure I’d be far off with that, so I will just say that the Orioles will defeat the Blue Jays by a score a of a lot to a lot.