The MLB playoffs begin Tuesday night with an AL Wild Card matchup between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, who both finished 89-73.
Chris Tillman will get the nod for Baltimore despite his struggles against the Jays. Tillman, 28, is 5-10 with a 5.44 ERA in 24 career starts against Toronto, including 2-6 with a 7.01 ERA in 13 starts at Rogers Centre.
“It’s been crazy to see his numbers there,” Baltimore’s The Fan host Jeremy Conn said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s been a guy that I don’t think a lot of people look at across the country as an upper-echelon pitcher, but for the Orioles, especially in the first half of the season, he was phenomenal until his injury. I do think his 2015 numbers help inflate his ERA in Toronto, but the Orioles had basically two pitchers to pick between. It’s Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman, so Buck Showalter wanted to go with the guy the guy he trusts a little bit more right now.”
Showalter doesn’t need a complete-game shutout from Tillman, either.
“They have a phenomenal bullpen,” Conn said. “If Tillman can get them five, they’ve been shutting teams down after the fifth inning and not giving up any runs. We all see what Britton’s capable of.”
Zach Britton saved 47 games this year and finished with a 0.54 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 67 innings.
“He’s been downright filthy the entire season,” Conn said. “I think a lot of fans here would like to see him in the Cy Young talks, but there’s a lot of people that think a guy that’s pitched that many innings shouldn’t be in the Cy Young (discussion). But let’s think about it: If he blows one save, the Orioles may not be in the postseason the entire year.”
Toronto, meanwhile, will start Marcus Stroman, who went 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA this season.
“I think the Orioles are a live dog,” Conn said. “I’m not just saying it and trying to be a homer. I know everybody’s going to jump on the Blue Jays because they’re at home, but if (the Orioles) can keep the game close and get to the bullpen, I think there’s an absolute chance that the Orioles – if you want to call it an upset – pull off the upset and head to Texas.”
Baltimore would love nothing more.
“Both these teams hate each other,” Conn said. “There’s the issue between (Manny) Machado and (Josh) Donaldson a few years ago, (Darren) O’Day and (Jose) Bautista. So I think we have a chance to have some good fun (Tuesday) night.”
Game time is 8 p.m. ET.