Boston looks to clinch AL East; Astros, M's clash in pursuit of Wild Card
By Chad Thornburg
Baseball fans are being treated to a potential peek into October this week as the Blue Jays and Orioles offer what could be a preview of this year's American League Wild Card Game with a three-game series at Rogers Centre.
If the season ended today, these division rivals would meet in the AL's one-game playoff. Toronto won the opener, furthering their claim to home-field advantage should these clubs open the postseason together on Oct. 4.
This is far from the only intriguing matchup included in today's schedule, which is packed with postseason implications. Fans can catch all the action streaming live on MLB.TV.
MLB.TV Premium has returned with the same features as last year, and is only $3.99 for the rest of the season. This package has the best value and provides access to more than 400 devices and a free subscription to the MLB.com At Bat Premium app (a $19.99 value). It offers the best picture quality ever -- a new 60 frames per second -- for supported devices.
Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times in ET):
Wild Card preview: BAL@TOR, 7:07 p.m.
The Blue Jays enter today's bout against the Orioles leading the season series between these clubs, which would give them the edge should they finish tied in the Wild Card standings. Toronto currently has a two-game advantage over Baltimore for home field and will look to strengthen that hold today after winning the opener.
The O's Chris Tillman is looking to rebound from his worst start of the season. He was chased from that game after just five outs against the Red Sox last week, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks.
"I was just mechanically bad tonight," Tillman said. "The more I tried to make an adjustment, the worse it kind of got for me. I just couldn't hit on a consistent basis. ... Command was bad from the get-go. I was never able to find it."
Francisco Liriano will go for the Jays. He's tossed three consecutive quality starts, allowing just four earned runs in 18 1/3 innings, while striking out 16 batters against five walks.
Stat that matters: The Orioles are hitting just .233 against lefties this season, which ranks second to last in the Majors.
Second time is the charm: BOS@NYY, 7:05 p.m.
The Red Sox will again try to lock down the AL East when they take the field against the Yankees in New York. Boston came up short in its first attempt to secure the division by losing the opener while the Blue Jays beat the Orioles in Toronto. The next Boston win or Toronto loss will clinch the East for the Red Sox. Once the division is settled, next up is the matter of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the AL's top seed up for grabs among Boston, Cleveland and Texas.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive with an elimination number that's down to two. New York will rely on right-hander Bryan Mitchell in this one as he takes the hill for his fifth start of 2016.
Clay Buchholz will take the ball for Boston. He allowed just one run in seven innings in his last start, a win over the Orioles last week. The Red Sox have won each of his last four starts and seven of the last eight.
Stat that matters:David Ortiz is slugging an MLB-best .523 on two-strike counts this season.
M's, Astros chase Wild Card: SEA@HOU, 2:10 p.m.
With the playoff picture falling into place, only a few spots remain for a number of teams hoping to extend their seasons well into October. Two of those clubs -- the Mariners and Astros -- are meeting head-to-head this week as each aims to stay alive in the AL Wild Card race. Less than a week remains in the regular season, and both teams are making a final push at catching Baltimore and Toronto.
Southpaw James Paxton will toe the rubber for the Mariners. He's pitched six or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs in three straight starts, including a loss to the Astros on Sept. 17. Houston's Doug Fister also pitched in that series earlier this month, and Seattle tagged him for seven runs and eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings.
Stat that matters: The Mariners entered Tuesday batting just 9-for-63 with runners in scoring position over their last seven games.
Cards look to get back in the race: CIN@STL, 8:15 p.m.
For now the Cardinals remain on the outside of the National League Wild Card field, their streak of five playoff appearances in jeopardy, but that could change quickly in a tightly contested, three-team Wild Card race. The Cardinals, who are looking up at the Mets and Giants in the standings, will try to gain some ground against the Reds today.
Mike Leake will start for St. Louis, still seeking his first win since returning from the disabled list Sept. 7. He's 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA since then. Leake lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Cubs in his last start.
The Reds will counter with righty Anthony DeSclafani, who saw a strong start undone in a hurry his last time out when he yielded three runs in the seventh inning. He's seen his ERA climb from 2.96 to 3.38 this month by allowing 13 earned runs across 23 September innings.
Stat that matters: Leake, who pitched for the Reds from 2010-15, is winless with an 8.31 ERA in three career starts against his former club.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers get the Mosaic View -- split screen or quad, available on PC or Mac only. That always comes in handy, especially when scoreboard-watching looms. MLB.TV Premium and MLB.TV Single Team subscribers both enjoy HD and both will get real-time highlights and player stats automatically loaded moments after they occur (only for the game you are watching with MLB.TV Single Team, and for all games with MLB.TV Premium).