After a 162-game marathon of a season, it all comes down to one final contest. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, two AL East division rivals who know each other very well, will square off for the 20th-and most important time this year when they collide Tuesday night, Oct. 4, with a postseason berth on the line. The winner will be able to claim a spot in the American League Division Series, and a showdown opposite the AL-best Texas Rangers will be awaiting them.
As is typically the case for postseason affairs, tickets are soaring on the secondary market, and this is certainly so for games played in Toronto, which attracts some of the highest prices in the league. In fact, tickets to see the Blue Jays and Orioles duke it out in this win-or-go-home encounter are averaging a whopping $268.84, with the lowest ticket going for as much as $85. When the Blue Jays made the playoffs last year (for the first time since 1993), they were garnering similar activity on the secondary ticket market. Fortunately, fans can at least save some money on their means of getting to the ballgame with ParkWhiz.com, which sports cheap Rogers Centre parking options all around the stadium.
During the regular season, these two teams played to a near stalemate, with Toronto winning the season series, 10-9. While both are strong offensive clubs, Toronto decisively outscored the O’s in those 19 games, 97-81, and overall, they had more runs scored (759) compared to Baltimore (744) during the regular season. However, in a “Winner Take All” affair, you can throw most regular season stats out the window.
Toronto will be the home team for this pivotal Wild Card game, and that could end up being the difference, as they were 46-36 at Rogers Centre this season. The O’s were even better than that in their ballpark, being 50-31 in front of the hometown faithful, but they’ll find themselves on the road here, in which they were a lackluster 39-42 away from home. Manager Buck Showalter must have his guys prepared to play in front of a very hostile environment north of the border if the Orioles want to advance to the next stage.
Both teams almost didn’t even reach this point, as they had to cement their spot in the postseason on the final day of the season, with the Detroit Tigers still hanging around in the hunt. However, the Tigers would go on to lose a tight 1-0 affair to the Atlanta Braves, who were playing in their final game ever at Turner Field, and that result instantly clinched playoff spots for both the Orioles and Blue Jays. In any event, both AL East clubs won their final game on Sunday to finish with identical 89-73 records, but with Toronto topping the season series, they were able to earn home-field advantage.
It’ll be a meeting between two similar franchises when they meet Tuesday evening. The Orioles led all of baseball with 253 home runs — 28 more than the St, Louis Cardinals, who registered the second-most — and they also have the slugger who hit more long balls than any other player this season, Mark Trumbo, who finished with a career-high 47 homers. In addition, Chris Davis (38 HRs), Manny Machado (37) and Adam Jones (29) also played a significant role in the club’s power surge.
Toronto, though, slugged 221 dingers as a team, ranking them fourth in baseball. Edwin Encarnacion led that effort, as he finished with 42 homers, while last year’s AL MVP Josh Donaldson (37) finished right behind him. Perennial power threat Jose Bautista is normally right up there as well, and although injuries limited him to just 22 long balls this year, he certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, especially while he’s healthy right now.
An argument could be made that Toronto’s fan-base is as passionate as any other in the sport today, and that was very evident in last year’s postseason. That being said, the O’s not only will have to contend with crowd noise, but also with one of the few lineups in baseball that can potentially out-slug them at their own game.
One thing is for certain; there should be plenty of fireworks at Rogers Centre when these two longtime rivals square off with the chance to advance deeper into October.
submitted by Ralph Garcia