Di­vi­sion ri­vals bat­tle in Wild Card game

Mar­cus Stro­man faces off against Chris Till­man for chance at Texas

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ian Har­ri­son

When­ever his Toronto Blue Jays face the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles, man­ager John Gib­bons has a pretty good idea what kind of game it’s go­ing to be.

“They’re nor­mally slugfests,” Gib­bons said Mon­day as the Blue Jays pre­pared to host Bal­ti­more in the Amer­i­can League wild-card game.

The Ori­oles led the ma­jor leagues with 253 home runs this sea­son, hit­ting 28 in their 19 games against Toronto. The Blue Jays were fourth in base­ball with 221 homers and had 29 against Bal­ti­more.

“We’re re­ally very sim­i­lar teams if you break it down,” Gib­bons said. “We know ev­ery­thing about them, they know ev­ery­thing about us. When you’re play­ing a team from your di­vi­sion, there’s re­ally no se­crets.”

Still, with a berth in the best-of-five Di­vi­sion Se­ries against Texas on the line, long balls might be a lit­tle harder to come by in Tues­day night’s win­ner­take-all af­fair be­tween these AL East foes.

The chal­lenge of con­trol­ling two pow­er­ful line­ups will fall on the start­ing pitch­ers. Mar­cus Stro­man (9-10, 4.37 ERA) gets the nod for Toronto, with fel­low right-han­der Chris Till­man (16-6, 3.77) go­ing for the Ori­oles.

“I think Stro is the per­fect guy,” Gib­bons said. “Big game, we’ve seen him do it be­fore. He did that a cou­ple of times for us last year. You know he’s go­ing to come out throw­ing strikes. We’re glad he’s avail­able.”

Bal­ti­more man­ager Buck Showal­ter said choos­ing Till­man was a “good, tough” de­ci­sion.

“We had prob­a­bly three op­tions, and Chris is one of those good op­tions,” Showal­ter said.

The Ori­oles went 4-0 in Till­man’s four starts against the Blue Jays this sea­son. Last year, he was 0-4 in six starts against Toronto, post­ing an ugly 11.32 ERA.

“I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to do any­thing dif­fer­ent with these guys,” Till­man said. “It’s just the way the cookie crum­bles some­times. Last year didn’t go so well, this year has been a lit­tle bet­ter.”

Till­man took a no-de­ci­sion against the Blue Jays in his fi­nal start of the reg­u­lar sea­son, al­low­ing two runs, one earned, and six hits in 5 2/3 in­nings last Wed­nes­day. In 13 ca­reer starts at Rogers Cen­tre, he is 2-6 with a 7.01 ERA.

If the Ori­oles have a late lead, they’ll like their chances of lock­ing it down; closer Zach Brit­ton was per­fect in 47 save op­por­tu­ni­ties this sea­son.

Given the stakes, Showal­ter said he’d con­sider us­ing Brit­ton for an ex­tended out­ing.

“You don’t worry about to­mor­row or the next day,” the man­ager ex­plained. “Ev­ery­thing is about that nine in­nings. There are some times dur­ing the course of the game that it may hap­pen ear­lier than usual that you may at­tack it dif­fer­ently.”

Stro­man lost to Bal­ti­more in his fi­nal reg­u­larsea­son out­ing, yield­ing four runs and nine hits in seven in­nings last Thurs­day. He is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in four starts against Bal­ti­more this sea­son.

“It’s an un­be­liev­able lineup,” Stro­man said. “One through nine, there are no easy outs. There are no pitches you can take off. You make a mis­take, and they make you pay.”

Ori­oles slug­ger Mark Trumbo led the ma­jors with 47 home runs, part of the rea­son Gib­bons con­sid­ers Bal­ti­more “prob­a­bly the top quick-strike of­fense in base­ball.”

“There are so many power threats in their lineup,” Gib­bons said.

Power was in short sup­ply for the Blue Jays dur­ing the fi­nal weeks of the sea­son. Toronto av­er­aged 3.69 runs in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, their worst month of the year.

A pair of one-run wins at Bos­ton in the fi­nal two games of the sea­son gave the Blue Jays home-field ad­van­tage against Bal­ti­more and got them ready for the post­sea­son, Gib­bons said.

“There’s got to be some­thing said for ex­pe­ri­enc­ing those kind of games,” he ex­plained. “You play enough of them, you get used to them.”

Toronto did not put right-han­der R.A. Dickey on its ros­ter. In­clud­ing Stro­man, the Blue Jays will have 10 pitch­ers avail­able. The Ori­oles had not yet fi­nal­ized their ros­ter.

The win­ner will head to Texas to play the AL West cham­pion Rangers be­gin­ning Thurs­day.

Till­man took a no-de­ci­sion against the Blue Jays in his fi­nal start of the reg­u­lar sea­son

(FRANK GUNN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS VIA AP

Bal­ti­more Ori­oles pitcher Kevin Gaus­man throws a foot­ball dur­ing a team work­out in Toronto on Mon­day. The Ori­oles will face the Toronto Blue Jays in Tues­day’s wild-card game.

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