Two American League East clubs will vie for their postseason lives when the Toronto Blue Jays host the Baltimore Orioles in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game.

MLB nearly faced a scheduling nightmare when a four-team tie remained plausible as late as Saturday. If the Detroit Tigers were required to make up a rained-out game Monday, they could have forced another tiebreaker game before playing the actual elimination game.

Toronto and Baltimore, however, made things easy by taking care of business. Behind power-fueled offenses, both squads finished at 89-73 after winning Sunday.

Last year, Toronto ousted the Texas Rangers in a feisty American League Division Series matchup most remembered by Jose Bautista‘s game-winning home run. (OK, probably more the ensuing bat flip). A win Tuesday night would set up a rematch.

Let’s take an early look at the AL’s play-in game.


AL Wild Card Game: Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto

Date: Tuesday, October 4

Time: 8:08 p.m. ET


Live Stream: MLB on TBS



With both teams needing to clinch a spot Sunday, each side used its most exciting young starter. As a result, Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman and Toronto All-Star Aaron Sanchez are unavailable for the Wild Card Game.

So who will take the mound at Rogers Centre? Neither team confirmed its starter as of Sunday night. J.A. Happ pitched Saturday, so the Blue Jays will turn to Marco Estrada (on three days’ rest), Francisco Liriano or Marcus Stroman. Unless they prefer Yovani Gallardo on short rest, the Orioles can employ Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez, who is highly erratic despite surging to the finish line.

Regardless of the two choices, it’s not a pitchers’ duel like the National League’s clash between Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner. This game boils down to offense and relief pitching. The starters will do their job by navigating five solid innings.

Buoyed by Mark Trumbo’s MLB-high 47 home runs, Baltimore rounded the bases more than any other MLB team this season. Although Bautista missed some time, only the Orioles, Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals went deep more than the Blue Jays.

It’s imperative for the Blue Jays to avoid a deficit entering the final inning. They shouldn’t want to take their chances against closer Zach Britton, who allowed four earned runs all season. Stats guru Ryan M. Spaeder noted the reliever’s historic season:

The path to Britton, however, is not as stable as earlier in the season. Brad Brach, who earned an All-Star nod with a 0.91 ERA, inflated his second-half mark to 3.94 after relinquishing four runs Saturday. Darren O’Day is no longer an automatic late-inning option after an ineffective (3.77 ERA) and injury-plagued campaign.

Baltimore could instead peg Dylan Bundy as a high-leverage bullpen option. Although the worn-down rookie yielded five runs in four of his last eight starts, he submitted seven strikeouts in 2.1 relief innings to earn a rotation spot in July. That culminated a string of 14.1 scoreless frames over which he tallied 22 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, foolish baseball shenanigans cost Toronto its hottest reliever. Since arriving from Seattle, Joaquin Benoit allowed one run over 25 appearances. On Sept. 26, he tore a calf muscle while running from a bullpen to join an on-field altercation against the New York Yankees.

“It felt like something hit me,” Benoit said, per an Associated Press report, via USA Today. “I won’t be able to get on the mound anytime soon, so personally this is really disappointing.”

Days later, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna blew a lead to Baltimore by allowing three runs over the final two frames.

“It was big,” Tillman said after Wednesday’s rally, per Reuters. “I think that could push a team a long way, those kind of wins. It was a big team win, and everybody played a part in it.”

Devon Travis also jammed his recently surgically repaired left thumb in the ruckus, but he looked fine when homering on Sunday. After debuting in late May, the 25-year-old second baseman hit .300/.332/.454 with 11 long balls in 432 plate appearances.

The Blue Jays were assembled to out-hit everyone, but Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin have fallen shy of expectations. Not Edwin Encarnacion, who remains one of the game’s sturdiest sluggers. In perhaps his final season with the club, the pending free agent belted 19 of his 42 homers after the All-Star break.

Home-field advantage could give Toronto a major boost, as Baltimore is the only AL playoff team with a losing record (39-42) on the road. Toronto also gained a narrow season edge in head-to-head meetings (10-9), but Baltimore stayed alive by winning two of three at Rogers Centre last week.

No stat or trend in the world will unearth the answer to who claims a winner-take-all baseball game. Especially not when the similarly constructed participants exited 162 of them with identical records.

Anything can happen in the Wild Card Game, but viewers should expect plenty of offense during a close contest. Orioles backup catcher Caleb Joseph went the entire season without recording an RBI, so he’ll probably come off the bench to drive in the winning run.

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