The wild weekend begins now. If you are here, you probably know the drill by now. Three games separate the four teams in contention for both of the AL Wild Card spots, and only one game separates three teams for the second, road spot in that game.
By virtue of being in the Eastern time zone, the Orioles will be part of the first wave of excitement on Friday night. Their game against the Blue Jays, along with the Red Sox game against the Nationals, get under way shortly after 7pm. The other significant game, the Mariners playing the Angels, does not begin until 10:10.
It’s Boston and Seattle who come into this final Friday tied for the second wild card spot, with the Jays one game back. If the Orioles beat the Jays, they’re putting a real hurting on Toronto’s chances, because that means if either Boston or Seattle wins, the Jays are two games back of a spot.
The good news for Toronto is it’s going to be something of a patchwork Orioles pitching staff game. The Mariners and Red Sox may not be glad to see that Thomas Eshelman and his 7.20 ERA are expected to get the bulk innings for the O’s, followed by who knows who. Still, we’ve seen from the recent Red Sox series that these O’s aren’t checked out, and even guys who’ve struggled in 2021 can dial it in over the final week or two to stick it to a team that thinks it can coast past the Orioles into a better playoff position.
The Orioles squeezed in a roster move before the start of the series. Alexander Wells was optioned to Norfolk, with reliever Isaac Mattson recalled. With Norfolk having only two games left after today, it is highly unlikely Wells will actually be getting on a plane to join the Tides.
Who are you rooting for to make it in out of this field? Before Seattle got its way in to the picture, I was resigned to feeling like I’d want the Blue Jays to get in to knock out either the Yankees or the Red Sox.
With the way things have gone, it’ll be fun if the Orioles can stick it to the Jays instead. At this point, they’re two games behind the Diamondbacks for the #1 pick. Losing for the pick may not be totally out of the question, as Arizona closes at home against a Rockies team that’s horrendous on the road, and the O’s do hold the tiebreaker over Arizona if, say, the O’s get swept by Toronto and Arizona wins two of three.
But, I remember how the last game of the 2011 season ended up feeling like the prologue for what came in 2012. It would be nice to take something positive into the long offseason, nice to feel like the O’s were battling as things wound down. They can’t get any walkoff wins by virtue of their closing out on the road, but they can still spoil the party for Toronto and help boost the Mariners to their first postseason bid in 20 years. Sounds fun.
- Cedric Mullins - CF
- Ryan Mountcastle - 1B
- Austin Hays - RF
- Trey Mancini - DH
- Pedro Severino - C
- Kelvin Gutierrez - 3B
- Tyler Nevin - LF
- Pat Valaika - 2B
- Richie Martin - SS
This is not a lineup that looks like it is going to do a whole lot of spoiling. That is probably what anyone would have said about the Orioles lineup on the night that Robert Andino destroyed the 2011 Red Sox, or for that matter, the lineups in this year’s series against the Red Sox. The Orioles official Twitter account is getting in on the spoiler party, including changing its profile picture to that of Andino after last night’s win. I hope we get to find out how they keep the party going if the Orioles can start wrecking Toronto’s chances.
It is Mullins’s birthday today, so maybe he will have a celebration that the Jays don’t enjoy.
Blue Jays lineup
- George Springer - CF
- Marcus Semien - 2B
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - DH
- Bo Bichette - SS
- Teoscar Hernandez - RF
- Corey Dickerson - LF
- Santiago Espinal - 3B
- Danny Jansen - C
- Cavan Biggio - 1B
Guerrero’s chase for the MLB home run lead has gotten a lot of attention as the season goes along, but Semien is not far behind him at 44 home runs. That is a new MLB single season record for a second baseman. An even bigger difference-maker for the Jays might be the leadoff man Springer. The Jays have been 45-30 when Springer plays and 33-31 when he doesn’t. He’s hit 19 home runs in 75 games. It doesn’t suck.
The Jays starting pitcher is Steven Matz, who brings a 3.88 ERA into his final regular season start of 2021. Not bad.