Sunday marked the end of the regular season for baseball and that means that the playoffs are just around the corner, Tuesday to be exact as the Baltimore Orioles take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the opening wildcard play-in game (8.08pm ET).
And given that these two teams are both representing the AL East, alongside the Boston Red Sox who won the division, it is easy to say what the best group in baseball was this year.
However, as good as the AL East was, are any of their teams favored to take home the World Series championship trophy? Looking at the sportsbooks’ World Series futures, the answer to that question is ‘no’ as those honors belong to the Chicago Cubs, MLB’s only 100+ win team this year.
But since this preview is focused on the AL-side of things, we’ll lead with the Red Sox, who according to those same odds, are favored to meet the Cubs in the Fall Classic. The odds predict them winning the AL pennant, which would be their third since 2004. It should be noted as well, that in each of those three pennant-winning seasons, Boston also went on to win the World Series. In each of those seasons, the Red Sox had home field advantage too thanks to winning the All-Star game, just as they will this year.
Boston’s series is set as they will take on the Cleveland Indians in a series beginning this Thursday. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers, who finished the season with an AL-best record of 95-67, await the winner of the first wildcard game between the Blue Jays and Orioles. That series is also scheduled to start Thursday.
Wildcard Play-In Game: BAL vs TOR
With two AL East teams vying for the final postseason spot and the right to play the Rangers in the ALDS, there is definitely an added element of rivalry associated with this one. Not to mention, these teams know each other very well.
The Blue Jays needed a win over the Red Sox in the final game of the season to secure their wildcard spot and earn home field advantage for the one-game playoff. This matters because against the Orioles, the season series was all but split 10-9 in favor of Toronto with the home team taking most of the contests.
The league’s most potent home run hitting team, the Orioles will look to that power in a big way on Tuesday night. Mark Trumbo (pictured) led the league with his 47 long balls and combined with the 38 from Chris Davis and 37 from Manny Machado and the Orioles boast the most powerful trio in baseball.
One of the most powerful duos in baseball is on the other side of the line-up. Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion (42 HR) and Josh Donaldson (37 HR) are third only to Trumbo/Davis and Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano.
ESPN has a stat that looks at MLB park factors, specifically to determine which are hitters’ or conversely, pitchers’ parks. According to that stat, Rogers Centre ranks 6th in terms of overall runs scored and while not traditionally considered a home run hitters’ park, these two teams, which combined for 178 runs in this 19-game season series (average 9 per game), could change that reputation. The wind forecasts for Tuesday look promising for long balls.
Lines for this game have yet to be set, but at home, the safe money seems to be with the Blue Jays. However, one factor to consider is that Toronto was cold down the stretch with the bats, especially with runners in scoring position, just as Baltimore seemed to be heating up. In a one game playoff, sometimes having the hot hand makes all of the difference.
While waiting for the top USA sportsbooks to price up this game, we are happy to give our preview’s betting predictions and picks and that would be:
- Expect the Blue Jays to win this one.
- We would go over on the runline spread if it is set at less than 10.