Blue Jays-Orioles Preview
With the AL East title secure, the Toronto Blue Jays can now turn their attention to other matters.
Wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the postseason and the potential return of a key contributor top that list.
There’s a chance Troy Tulowitzki could be in the Blue Jays’ lineup for the first time in almost three weeks Thursday when they conclude this four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Toronto (92-66) has been the hottest team in the majors the past two months and locked up its first division title since 1993 with a 15-2 rout in the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
Jose Bautista hit his 40th home run, Edwin Encarnacion added No. 37 and Justin Smoak also connected in the first game for Toronto, which rested all its regulars and had a six-game win streak snapped with an 8-1 loss in the nightcap.
The opening-game victory was the Blue Jays’ 47th since the All-Star break, matching the franchise record set in 1989.
”It’s the ultimate right now,” manager John Gibbons said. ”To be honest, we think we have more ahead of us. It was a big hurdle to get over. It’s been so damn long."
Toronto is one game ahead of Kansas City in the battle for the league’s best record, with the winner getting home-field advantage through the World Series.
"I think home field for us, with the environment that we have now in that stadium, and I’ve talked to other GMs, other teams, everybody across the league is talking about what an unbelievable environment it is," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told MLB’s official website.
While David Price has been everything the Blue Jays hoped for and more when they acquired from Detroit on July 31, Tulowitzki – their other marquee addition – made less of an impact in 39 games for his new club before he injured his back and shoulder against the Yankees on Sept. 12.
He took batting practice for the second straight day Tuesday and there’s a chance he could play this game. If not, he likely would return this weekend in Tampa Bay.
"I’m good enough to take swings, and I’m good enough to take ground balls, and now it’s just about tomorrow giving them good feedback: ‘Hey I took a lot of swings and a lot of hard swings, and I feel good,’" Tulowitzki said.
Price was originally slated to start this game but will be pushed back to limit his down time before Game 1 of the division series, which starts Oct. 8.
Instead, Drew Hutchison (13-4, 5.33 ERA) will make his first start since Sept. 9. Part of Toronto’s rotation most of the season, the right-hander allowed six runs in each of his last two starts, lasting five-plus innings in a 10-2 loss to the Orioles on Sept. 4.
Hutchison is 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA in three starts this year against Baltimore, surrendering six homers in 17 1-3 innings.
After scoring five runs during a five-game skid, the Orioles (77-81) got two homers from Chris Davis and one each from Manny Machado and Matt Wieters in the second game.
Davis has hit seven of his major league-leading 45 homers against Toronto.
Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.60) gets another opportunity to prove he’s worthy of a spot in Baltimore’s 2016 rotation. The rookie right-hander has recorded quality outings in three of his four starts, including allowing two runs over six innings before leaving without a decision in a 5-4 win over Washington last Thursday.
He was effective in relief against the Blue Jays on June 19, yielding one run over 5 2-3 innings.