Series Preview: Orioles (85-71) @ Blue Jays (86-70)

After stepping up and recording a massive three-game sweep over Arizona this past weekend, the Orioles have vaulted themselves back into the playoff picture heading into the final week of the season. Just six games stand in between the Orioles and their third trip to the playoffs in the last five seasons.

The Orioles, however, will have to be at their absolute best over the next week in order to clinch their spot in the postseason as they head across the northern border to take on the Blue Jays before heading into the bright lights of New York City for the season finale.

It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be intense. And it’s going to be a ton of fun to watch unfold.

The Orioles (85-71) may have lost out on the division title to the Red Sox, but they find themselves just a game behind the Blue Jays for second in the division and the first wild card slot as they soar into Ontario. Thanks to their timely sweep over the D’Backs, they’ve also built a two-game lead over Detroit and Seattle for the second and final wild card spot in the AL.

The Orioles have battled all year long during their roller coaster of a season, and now with the finish line in sight, all that’s left to do is to finish the job.

The Blue Jays (86-70) find themselves six games behind Boston for first in the division after posting a 10-13 mark thus far in September, but barring a late-season collapse, the Jays have all but clinched their spot in the postseason after recording a stellar 33-19 record from July through August and own a three-game lead over the closest playoff contenders other than the O’s.

Oh, and did I mention this will most likely be a sneak preview of the wild card game? The Blue Jays own a 9-7 advantage over the Orioles this season and a 5-2 record against them at Rogers Centre, but forget what’s already set in stone; these three games will decide on who hosts the one-game wild card play-off in a few weeks’ time if there is no change in the standings. Needless to say, the intensity will be off the charts in Toronto for the next few days.

Put on your hardhats, boys, it’s time to go to work!

Kevin Gausman (8-11, 3.57 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener against the Jays breakout ace Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 3.12 ERA).

Gausman has been incredible over his last ten starts, going 6-3 with an outstanding 2.57 ERA. However, the O’s 25-year-old flamethrower has posted a 7.71 ERA over his two starts against the Jays this season. In 11 career games (six starts) versus Toronto, Gausman has recorded a 2-2 record along with a 4.15 ERA.

Sanchez has been off of his game this month and owns a 5.40 ERA over three starts. In stark contrast, the 24-year-old Californian went 9-1 with a terrific 2.61 ERA over 15 starts from June through August. The Orioles will also be looking to record their first win of the season against the Barstow native, as Sanchez owns a perfect 3-0 record and a rock-solid 3.38 ERA versus the Birds over four starts on the year.

Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.84 ERA) will go up against the rejuvenated Francisco Liriano (8-13, 4.89 ERA) on Thursday.

After his disappointing outing versus Boston, Tillman has registered a 2-3 record and a 5.72 ERA over his last six starts. Whether his struggles are due to still dealing with a shoulder injury or him not being able to hit his groove since coming back to the team, the Orioles will need a vintage performance from Tillman now more than ever. Tillman has posted a 1-0 record and a 4.32 ERA over three starts against the Jays this season.

Liriano rejoined the rotation on September 12th and has been absolutely dominant since his return, going 1-1 with a stellar 1.96 ERA over his last three outings. Since coming to Toronto in August, the 32-year-old southpaw has gone 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA over nine games (seven starts) as a member of the Blue Jays. In eight career starts versus Baltimore, the former All-Star owns a 2-4 record and a 5.01 ERA.

Ubaldo Jimenez (7-12, 5.71 ERA) will get the nod against Marcus Stroman (9-9, 4.34 ERA) in the series finale.

Jimenez has been excellent since his return to the rotation and boasts an unfair 2-3 record along with a 3.31 ERA over his last ten games (six starts). He’s also recorded a 2.79 ERA over his last three starts.

However, Jimenez may be hoping he is saved for the New York series as he has gone 0-1 with a dreadful 9.42 ERA over four games (three starts) against Toronto this season.

Stroman, 25, has been outstanding this month en route to posting a 3.00 ERA over five starts and a 2.37 ERA over his last three. Unfortunately, he’s also gone 0-4 during that stretch…talk about bad luck. Stroman, however, will be hoping to avoid getting tagged by the O’s yet again this season as he owns a 7.88 ERA over three starts against the Birds.

This week’s pivotal showdown in Toronto also boasts the third-best (Toronto) and the seventh-best (Baltimore) offenses that the league has to offer. It also features the top two most powerful lineups in the nation as the Blue Jays’ 217 home runs are only second to the Orioles 245.

That’s right. In one corner, we’ve got Mark Trumbo (.248, 45 HR, 104 RBI), Manny Machado (.301, 36 HR, 94 RBI), Chris Davis (.219, 38 HR, 84 RBI) and Adam Jones (.269, 28 HR, 82 RBI) going toe-to-toe and slugging it out with the likes of Edwin Encarnacion (.269, 42 HR, 126 RBI), Josh Donaldson (.284, 36 HR, 96 RBI), Jose Bautista (.238, 21 HR, 67 RBI) and Troy Tulowitzki (.251, 24 HR, 78 RBI) for the right to play in October.

Surely, it doesn’t get any better than this.

 

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About Logan Quick

Logan Quick
Logan Quick is a 23-year-old journalist from Harford County, Maryland. Loves hockey so much, there's ice in his veins, not blood. Breathes soccer. Kind of wishes he lived in Barcelona. Oh yeah, and his love for music, especially 1960's and 70's rock and roll, is unwavering. Also a lover of...more

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