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2016 American League Wild Card Game Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles will meet for the 20th time this season Tuesday night. However, this time it is in the American League Wild Card Game. These opponents know each other well, both being members of the American League East. The Blue Jays and the Orioles are coming into the playoffs with different ends to their seasons. The Orioles ending regular season strong, going 16-11 in the month of September, helping solidify their playoff spot. The Blue Jays on the other hand stumbled into the playoffs, almost missing the postseason by going 11-16 in September.

Both teams finished the regular season with an 89-72 record. The Blue Jays will have homefield advantage due to having the better head-to-head record during the regular season. The Orioles struggled on the road the season, having a road record of 39-42 and a run differential of -11. The Jays on the other hand thrived at home, going 46-35 and a +38 run differential.

The Orioles are going to have the pitching advantage for this one game series. The Orioles will be playing their number one starter, Chris Tillman. Tillman has had a good season, boasting a 3.77 ERA and a 16-6 record. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays will be starting 25 year old Marcus Stroman. Stroman struggled this year, going 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA. Some bad news for the Orioles is that Tillman has been horrible in the Rogers Center in his career. In 13 starts in Toronto, Tillman has a 7.01 ERA.

There’s a good chance this game will have plenty of offense. The Blue Jays and the Orioles both have very good offenses. The Blue Jays scored the ninth most runs in baseball with 759 runs, while the Orioles scored the 12th most runs with 744. The power on these teams is ridiculous. The Orioles hit 253 home runs this season, first in baseball, and the Blue Jays hit the fourth most with 221.

The one thing that helps separate these two teams are the bullpens. While the matchup between starting pitching and hitting is similar, the bullpen matchup is not. Baltimore’s bullpen has been beating up on opponents all season. Their bullpen ERA for the season was 3.40, which ranks fourth in baseball. The Orioles’ bullpen is led by star closer Zach Britton who has been phenomenal this year. Britton should be a Cy Young candidate with his 100 percent save rate and 0.54 ERA. Toronto’s bullpen hasn’t been so kind to the Blue Jays, ranking 22nd with a 4.11 ERA. If Stroman isn’t playing well, going to the bullpen may not be the best idea for Toronto.

Expect this to be a good game. A score of something around the lines of 7-6 seems likely. Despite homefield advantage, I predict the Orioles will leave victorious due to their advantages in pitching. 

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