Blue Jays counting on home cooking vs. O's

Blue Jays counting on home cooking vs. O's

For the second time in as many years, the Blue Jays are headed to the postseason and this time it's with home-field advantage in the American League Wild Card game.

Toronto officially clinched the top Wild Card spot with a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. The Blue Jays will host Baltimore at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night with the winner moving on to face the Rangers in the American League Division Series.

Tuesday's AL Wild Card Game is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet (English) and RDS (French) in Canada and TBS in the United States.

The Blue Jays came into this year with the regular season goal of winning the AL East. It didn't quite work out that way in the end but having home-field advantage with a chance to face Texas in a rematch of last year's ALDS is not a bad consolation prize. The most important thing here is that the dream is very much alive.

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"Everybody knows what home-field advantage means for baseball," Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said. "You can look at the records up and down the league. I would say 90 percent of the teams benefit from playing at home. We're no different. The fans have been great with their support the last four or five years. We can't wait to get home."

The Blue Jays and Orioles finished the season with the same 89-73 record but Toronto owns the tiebreaker for home field advantage because of a better head-to-head record. The Blue Jays won the season series, 10-9, including 5-4 when playing north of the border.

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Toronto's homefield advantage may not look like that big of a deal when looking at its 46-35 record at Rogers Centre compared to 43-38 on the road but a closer look at Baltimore tells a different story. The Orioles went 50-31 at Camden Yards this year but were three games under .500 (39-42) on the road.

"That place is going to be nuts," Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil said. "We've got the best fans ever. The place is going to be nuts and it's going to be awesome ... It sucks it's only one game but we get to play it at home and obviously we're ready for it. The city is ready for it, we're ready for it, it's going to be a good time."

The Blue Jays selected right-hander Marcus Stroman to start Tuesday's game, while the Orioles went with Chris Tillman. It will be a similar goal from both sides: Limit the home runs. The O's and Jays have both built their offenses around the long ball and feature some of the game's most elite sluggers. Baltimore ranked first in the Major Leagues this year with 253 homers while Toronto finished fourth with 221.

Both teams had six players finish the year with at least 20 home runs and rely on going deep to win games. Both teams also have a reputation of being one of the top hitting clubs in the Major Leagues, but each surprisingly went through a September swoon. The Orioles finished 11th in the AL with 112 runs in September while the Blue Jays were 15th at 100.

There's a reason the Blue Jays and Orioles ended the year with the same record, they really are that evenly matched. That makes homefield advantage even more important than normal.

"We feel good anywhere we go but everybody wants to play at home," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We've got great fan support -- it's really picked up in the last year and a half. It's a good reward for them, too."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.