Blue Jays, Orioles prepare for wild-card slugfest

Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images Sport / Getty

TORONTO - Whenever his Toronto Blue Jays face the Baltimore Orioles, manager John Gibbons has a pretty good idea what kind of game it's going to be.

"They're normally slugfests," Gibbons said Monday as the Blue Jays prepared to host Baltimore in the American League wild-card game.

The Orioles led the major leagues with 253 home runs this season, hitting 28 in their 19 games against Toronto. The Blue Jays were fourth in baseball with 221 homers and had 29 against Baltimore.

''We're really very similar teams if you break it down,'' Gibbons said. ''We know everything about them, they know everything about us. When you're playing a team from your division, there's really no secrets.''

Still, with a berth in the best-of-five Division Series against Texas on the line, long balls might be a little harder to come by in Tuesday night's winner-take-all affair between these AL East foes.

The challenge of controlling two powerful lineups will fall on the starting pitchers. Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) gets the nod for Toronto, with fellow right-hander Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77) going for the Orioles.

"I think Stro is the perfect guy," Gibbons said. "Big game, we've seen him do it before. He did that a couple of times for us last year. You know he's going to come out throwing strikes. We're glad he's available."

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said choosing Tillman was a ''good, tough'' decision.

The Orioles went 4-0 in Tillman's four starts against the Blue Jays this season. Last year, he was 0-4 in six starts against Toronto, posting an ugly 11.32 ERA.

"I don't think I've gone out of my way to do anything different with these guys,"Tillman said. "It's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Last year didn't go so well, this year has been a little better."

Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs, part of the reason Gibbons considers Baltimore ''probably the top quick-strike offense in baseball.''

"There are so many power threats in their lineup," Gibbons said.

Power was in short supply for the Blue Jays during the final weeks of the season. Toronto averaged 3.69 runs in September and October, its worst month of the year.

The winner will head to Texas to play the AL West champion Rangers beginning Thursday.

Blue Jays, Orioles prepare for wild-card slugfest
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