After taking three of four from the Yankees, the Blue Jays (86-70) will face the Orioles (85-71) in their final home series of the regular season. The importance of this series cannot be understated. Both teams are fighting for wild card spots and cannot afford to lose many more games this season. They will battle it out not only trying to clinch a wild card berth, but also to have home field advantage in the wild card game. Coming into the series, Toronto holds a 1.0 game lead over Baltimore in the wild card standings. Contenders Detroit and Seattle hope they can sneak into the race while these two fight to stay on top.
The meeting on the mound
The series opener pits Orioles starter Kevin Gausman (8-11, 3.57 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 3,12 ERA). Sanchez is coming off a few rough outings and hasn’t picked up a win since August 31st against Baltimore. In that game, Aaron went 6.0 innings giving up 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2. He will hope to have the same luck with the Orioles after having 6 days rest since his last outing at Seattle. The Blue Jays hitters will try to jump all over Gausman who has struggled against the Blue Jays in two starts this season, giving up 14 hits, 8 ER and 4 HR in 9 and 1/3 innings.
Game two will see Francisco Liriano (8-13, 4.88 ERA) for the Blue Jays. Liriano is on a roll and hasn’t had a start where he surrendered more than 3 runs since August 12 vs. Houston. He has settled in nicely and is working well with his old partner Russell Martin at the plate. His slider has been wicked lately with some nasty movement on it and he has been really locating his strikes. Baltimore starter TBA.
The series finale features Marcus Stroman (9-9, 4.34 ERA). He had one of his best starts of the season his last time out on September 24th versus the Yankees. Marcus only allowed a hit and 3 walks while striking out 5 in 7.0 innings. It was a shame that he didn’t pick up the win that day as Toronto’s offense waited until the 8th to score all of their runs. He will need much more run support early in this game to be able to pull off a win against the tough Orioles. Baltimore starter TBA.
Players to watch
For Toronto, the players to watch will be their big four. We’ve all witnessed moments of greatness from each of Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnation, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista over the past few months. It has been rare that all of them are hot at the same time. The success of the team falls into their hands and they will be needed over the last 6 games of the regular season. Any combination of those four hitting well will result in Toronto being nearly impossible to beat. It’s that simple. The team can simply not afford any more slumps and 0-fors at the plate if they are to hold on in the wild card and make a playoff series.
The Orioles have many players to watch as well, with names like Mark Trumbo (league HR leader), Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones. It will be a tough task for Toronto’s pitching to keep these guys down, but they are familiar with the lineup and have had some success in the past shutting them down. Baltimore has as much to fight for as Toronto does, so every pitcher that has to face these batters will have their hands full. Look for any of these games to turn into a slugfest or a pitcher’s duel.
May the best team win, and when I say that I definitely mean the Blue Jays.