The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Baltimore Orioles in the American League wild-card game on Tuesday night. Toronto is making its second consecutive postseason appearance following a 21-season drought, while the Orioles are making their third appearance in the past five seasons after making two in their previous 28 seasons.
The Blue Jays won the season series 10-9, including 6-4 at Rogers Centre, but the Jays lost three of their final four home games against the Orioles in the regular season. A look at some of the keys to Tuesday's matchup:
Starting pitching matchup
The Orioles will throw their ace, Chris Tillman. For his career, Tillman has struggled at Rogers Centre, going 2-6 with a 7.01 ERA in 13 career starts at Toronto. He has allowed a home run to 7 percent of the batters he has faced there, compared with 3 percent in all other parks.
Though his career numbers aren't great, Tillman has turned it around in 2016. In four starts against the Blue Jays, Tillman went 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA, including a 2.38 ERA in two starts at Rogers Centre; allowing just one home run in 11 1/3 innings pitched. The Orioles won all four of Tillman's starts against the Blue Jays this season.
Toronto will counter with Marcus Stroman, who was 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in four starts against the Orioles this season. The Blue Jays lost three of Stroman's four starts against Baltimore this season, including June 19 against Tillman.
The move to start Stroman, a right-handed pitcher, is an interesting one; the Orioles have performed much better against right-handed pitchers than lefties this season. In the regular season, the Orioles hit nearly 30 points higher against righties (.263) than lefties (.234); their batting average against lefties was the lowest in the American League and second-lowest in the majors.
Additionally, the Orioles had an OPS of over 90 points higher against righties (.783) than lefties (.692), also the lowest figure in the AL. This was due in part to Baltimore hitting home runs more often against righties than lefties, at a rate of 4.5 percent to 3.2 percent.
Orioles go deep often
Speaking of home runs, the Orioles hit 253 this season -- 28 more than any other team in the majors, and the fifth-highest single-season total in MLB history. Mark Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs, and Chris Davis (38) and Manny Machado (37) were not far behind.
The Orioles hit 55 home runs in August, tying the major league record for homers in August, just two months after setting the June record with 56. They became the first team in major league history to hit at least 55 homers in two different months of a season.
This might be where the decision to start Stroman comes into play. He led all qualified starters in the majors with a 61 percent ground-ball rate, nearly 3 percentage points higher than any other qualified starter. Stroman allowed 21 home runs this season, second-fewest among the Blue Jays' starters behind only Aaron Sanchez (15), who started for the Jays on Sunday.
Blue Jays efficient defensively ...
If Stroman and the Blue Jays can keep the Orioles in the park, they may have the advantage. Toronto's opponents had a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .283 this season, the lowest in the AL and second-lowest in the majors. The major league average was .300 this season.
A big reason why is that the Blue Jays had the second-highest defensive efficiency in baseball this season, converting more than 70 percent of balls in play into outs.
... but struggling offensively as of late
The Blue Jays went 8-5 in the season’s final two weeks, but they were last in the majors in scoring in September and October, averaging just 3.7 runs per game.
This is the 112th major league postseason, and according to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Blue Jays are the third team to make the postseason after finishing last in the majors in runs per game in September and October.