Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays (-150, 8.5 o/u)
Even though some refuse to acknowledge the Wild Card games as being part of the postseason, the fact is 20 other teams’ seasons will have concluded before the first pitch is thrown out between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre (8:00 PM ET).
The Orioles enter the postseason having won seven of their last nine, which includes taking two of three against the Jays in the last week of September. Despite having just as many wins as their Wild Card foe (89), Baltimore has to travel to Toronto thanks to the Jays taking ten of their 19 head-to-head matchups this season, which includes seven of 11 in Toronto.
Of the ten teams in the playoffs, no team has a worse ERA from their starting rotation than the Orioles (4.72). But, Baltimore will be hoping to leave that stat in the past and will send their ace Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) to the mound. This will be the right-hander’s fifth start against the Jays this season. The previous four starts have resulted in Tillman going 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA in 22.1 innings pitched. However, he has not always enjoyed such success against the Jays, going 5-10 with a 5.44 ERA in his career against the Jays, and the numbers get even worse when pitching in Toronto: 2-6 with a 7.01 ERA.
To counter, the Blue Jays will send Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) to the bump, in hopes that he can continue his strong play of late. The decision is being met with some criticism, as all the numbers pointed to starting Francisco Liriano. Just like his Wild Card Game opposite, Stroman hasn’t fared that well against the lineup he is about to face. In four starts this season against the Orioles, the right-hander is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA. In seven career starts, he is 2-3 with a 5.27 ERA. However, we have watched Stroman rise to the occasion for the Blue Jays in the past, and they’ll need their 25-year old to do it one more time on Tuesday.
As a staff, the Blue Jays starting rotation has been very good this year. They led the majors in innings pitched, and were fourth in starters ERA (best in AL). The same can’t be said about their bullpen, though. Toronto relievers have posted a 4.11 ERA this season (22nd), have blown 22 of 65 save opportunities, and have taken a loss in 32 games (tied for second-most in majors). Recent struggles from Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna, along with the loss of Joaquin Benoit (torn calf), have the Jays praying for a solid outing from Stroman.
In terms of pitching, the Orioles are completely opposite of the Jays, possessing the AL’s best bullpen (3.40 ERA). The group is led by Zach Britton who posted a 0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and converted on all 47 of his save opportunities. Should the Orioles enter the seventh inning tied or with a lead, the odds will be stacked heavily against the Jays.
Looking to the offenses that will be present in this game, both teams live and die by the long ball. The Orioles led the league in home runs (253), but that only resulted in them scoring the 12th most runs (744). The Jays ranked fourth in home runs hit (221), and ninth in runs scored (759). However, both offenses have dried up lately, as they each find themselves in the bottom third of the league for runs scored in September.
While neither pitcher, nor offense screams an advantage for one side or the other, the location does. When at home, the Blue Jays have scored 401 runs (sixth in the majors), and have a 46-35 record in front of their home crowd. The Orioles went 39-42 on the road in 2016, and their team ERA is 4.46 away from Camden Yards (24th).
Look for the heart of Toronto’s order to wake up and produce against a pitcher they have all eaten up in the past, and Stroman to turn things over to his bullpen with a comfortable lead.
Pick: Toronto Blue Jays (-150)
(Photo Credit: By Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
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