Playoff baseball is finally here, as the Toronto Blue Jays host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday in the American League wild-card game, while the San Francisco Giants visit New York to face the Mets in the National League matchup on Wednesday. The winner of the AL wild-card game will face the Texas Rangers, while the NL winner will face the Chicago Cubs.
While the Blue Jays and the Orioles might be more intriguing considering they both compete in the AL East and have elite power hitters, the Giants and Mets offer a scintillating pitching duel.
Here's a look at both games.
Baltimore Orioles (89-73) at Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)
It was a close season series, with the Blue Jays winning 10 of the 19 matchups. These two teams are very evenly matched, with both lacking a superstar ace but making up for it with a power-laden offense.
Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA) takes the hill for the Orioles after allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings against the Jays on Sept. 28 at Rogers Centre. The lanky right-hander made four starts against Toronto in 2016, with a 3.63 ERA over a total of 22.1 innings, and at Rogers Centre he has a 2.38 ERA over 11.1 innings.
Because ace Aaron Sanchez pitched on Sunday, the Blue Jays will go with Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA), who made three appearances in the 2015 postseason. The 25-year-old has struggled against Baltimore, allowing four earned runs over seven innings against the Orioles on Sept. 29, and has a 7.04 ERA over 23 innings.
Stroman, who has conceded 21 homers on the season, will be tested by the Orioles' huge sluggers, who led the league in home runs (253). Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo combined for 84 homers, and 204 RBI, as one of the best No. 3 and cleanup-hitting combos in baseball. Meanwhile, Chris Davis (38 homers), Adam Jones (29 homers), Jonathan Schoop (25 homers), and Pedro Alvarez (22 homers) are capable of powering the Orioles to a victory.
But Tillman also faces a challenge against Toronto's bats, which finished ninth in baseball in runs (759). The Blue Jays finished sixth in on-base percentage (.330) but much of their strength comes from a pair of superstar bats. Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion probably won't receive much MVP consideration, but the Blue Jays duo combined for 79 homers and 226 RBI. And like the Orioles, there is power-hitting depth with Troy Tulowitzki (24 homers), Michael Sanders (24 homers), Jose Bautista (22 homers) and Russell Martin (20 homers).
Where: Rogers Centre
When: Tuesday, Oct. 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
San Francisco Giants (87-75) at New York Mets (87-75)
It's all about pitching in the NL, with the five best staffs earning a spot in the postseason. The Mets boast baseball's third-best ERA (3.58), while the Giants are fourth (3.65), and both teams send their aces in their Wednesday matchup.
Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) allowed four earned runs over five innings at home against the Mets on Aug 18., but threw six shutout innings in his only appearance at Citi Field. While the former World Series MVP has enjoyed another stellar season, he's coming off a subpar August (4.14 ERA) and September (3.92 ERA). Bumgarner, who is capable of dominating in games that matter most, will be facing a Mets lineup that finished 26th in runs (671). But the Mets still have Yoenis Cespedes, a star right-handed bat, along with Wilmer Flores and switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera. One bad pitch from Bumgarner can spell doom.
Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60) has basically been impressive from start to finish, but allowed four earned runs in 5.2 innings at home in his lone start against the Giants. The 24-year-old is one of the hardest throwers in baseball, and one of the top contenders for the Cy Young in just his second season. Syndegaard will be going up a Giants lineup that finished 28th in home runs (130), and didn't have one everyday player bat .290. San Francisco will likely try to manufacture runs with bats like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, who all finished with at least 80 RBI.
The Mets won the season series, 4-3, by a total of 39 runs to 35 runs, but this has all the makings of an intense pitchers' duel, with both pitchers racking up plenty of strikeouts.
Where: Citi Field
When: Wednesday, Oct. 5
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN