The last time the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles shared the same field in a game that counted, it was the 2016 American League Wild-Card Game at Rogers Centre. The Jays won in memorable fashion, 5-2 in 11 innings. The two AL East rivals open the 2017 season against one another in Baltimore on Monday afternoon.
Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Odds
Moneylines: Orioles -120, Blue Jays +100
Date: Monday, April 3, 3:05 p.m. ET
Location: Camden Yards, Baltimore
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays start life without slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who left in free agency for Cleveland. He hit the walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th of that Wild-Card Game against the Orioles to advance Toronto to the ALDS and send the Rogers Centre into delirium.
“I was looking for a fastball and I was trying to put the barrel on it, get a little bit in front because the infield was playing in, and I actually got it,” Encarnacion said of a pitch from Ubaldo Jimenez, who noted he was trying to throw a low slider and induce a double play.
There was a ton of controversy in that game because Orioles skipper Buck Showalter never used All-Star closer Zach Britton even though he had one of the best seasons in MLB history. Britton warmed up in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings but was never called into the game. He had 47 saves (none blown) and a 0.54 ERA during the regular season. That ERA was the best ever for a pitcher with at least 65 innings.
Showalter took a ton of heat for not using Britton. Jimenez had been pitching well late in the regular season but as a starter. In fact, Jimenez had pitched in relief only eight times previously in his career. He entered with one out and the bases empty in the 11th. Leadoff hitter Devon Travis singled and so did Josh Donaldson, with Travis going to third. Showalter then came to the mound, with many assuming Britton would be called to face Encarnacion. He wasn’t, and the rest is history. The Jays surely will see Britton in the top of the ninth Monday if they are trailing.
Toronto gives the start to Marco Estrada, the first Opening Day outing of his career. Estrada was 9-9, with a 3.48 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 176 innings over 29 starts last year. Estrada was 3-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 15 home starts. He was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts overall against the Orioles.
New Baltimore catcher Wellington Castillo hits Estrada well, going 7-for-23 career with four homers and eight RBIs. Chris Davis, who is among the Sports Interaction favourites to lead the majors in home runs this season, is 2-for-16 off him with two homers. MVP candidate Manny Machado is 2-for-18 with six walks. Mark Trumbo is 3-for-15 with a homer and six strikeouts.
The Orioles like even-numbered years as they were a wild-card team last year and in 2012, and won the AL East in 2014 but were swept in the ALCS by Kansas City. Baltimore hasn’t reached the World Series since last winning it 1983 led by a young shortstop named Cal Ripken Jr.
Baltimore is largely the same team as last year, saying goodbye to the likes of catcher Matt Wieters, outfielders Michael Bourn, Steve Pearce (to Blue Jays) and Nolan Reimold, and starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. No huge losses there. The O’s added Castillo to replace Wieters and traded Gallardo for outfielder Seth Smith. The team has a wins total of 80.5 on MLB odds and is +1200 to win the AL East.
Last year, the Birds finished 89-73 because they clubbed the ball like no other team. The Orioles led the majors by a mile with 253 homers. Trumbo was No. 1 with 47 of them and was re-signed to a below-market contract this offseason when he wasn’t getting many bites in free agency. Machado, who finished fifth in last year’s AL MVP voting, hit .294 with 37 homers and 96. He’s one of the young superstars of the game and will hit free agency after the 2018 season. The bidding will start at $350 million. Davis hit 38 homers last year, center fielder Adam Jones added 29 and second baseman Jonathan Schoop 25. This club is built to play in the bandbox that is Camden Yards.
The Orioles had some pitching problems in 2016 with a team ERA of 4.22 that as 19th. That’s with the unhittable Britton at the end of games. Orioles starters had an ERA of 4.72 that was 24th. The ace of the staff is right-hander Chris Tillman, who was 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 2016 and had started three straight season openers.
However, Tillman is working back from some shoulder issues so the Opening Day start goes to 26-year-old righty Kevin Gausman (9-12, 3.61), once one of the franchise’s top prospects. He got better as last year went on, posting 10 quality starts and a 3.10 ERA in his final 15 outings. His win on the final day of the regular season at the Yankees got the Orioles into the Wild-Card Game.
Gausman was 6-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 12 home starts last year. He was 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts overall against Toronto. The Jays knocked him around for 21 hits and 12 earned runs in 15.1 innings. The Jays’ Donaldson is 6-for-16 career against Gausman with a homer and four RBIs. Ezequiel Carrera is 4-for-8 with a double and homer. Troy Tulowitzki is 2-for-5 with a double and home run. Jose Bautista struggles against Gausman with a .077 average and four strikeouts in 13 at-bats.
Blue Jays at Orioles Predictions
Toronto was 11-9 in the 2016 regular season against the Orioles but 4-5 at Camden Yards. Baltimore was one of the AL’s best home teams at 50-31. The Jays were a solid 43-38 on the road. Teams get fired up for Opening Day, so lean Baltimore in MLB odds in front of its home crowd. I’m sure the Orioles wouldn’t mind a little payback as well. Go under the total.