October 05, 2016 - 4:00 AM
TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays advanced to the American League Division Series on Tuesday night with a 5-2, 11-inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game. The Texas Rangers await in a best-of-five ALDS rematch starting Thursday in Texas.
Here's a look at five storylines to watch:
These two teams squared off in a tension-filled series last year. This year's meeting should be even more intense.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista got the Rangers' blood boiling last fall with an epic bat flip after a home run that turned the decisive Game 5 in Toronto's favour.
Tempers flared again when the teams met in May at Globe Life Park.
Texas second baseman Rougned Odor took exception to a hard slide from Bautista and punched him in the jaw, leading to a wild bench-clearing melee.
Odor was given a seven-game suspension.
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna left Tuesday's game in the 10th inning due to a problem with his right shoulder.
He said he noticed a stretching sensation in the front of his shoulder, but that there was no pain.
Manager John Gibbons pulled him from the game. Osuna said doctors did not find anything that was a concern.
The right-hander said fatigue was the likely issue after a busy final few weeks of the season. He hopes to be ready for Game 2 on Friday.
The Blue Jays used the long ball to their advantage on Tuesday night and they'd like to see a repeat of that in Texas.
The Toronto offence cooled in September as the Blue Jays fell near the bottom of most offensive categories for the month.
But Jose Bautista supplied an early solo homer in the wild-card win and Edwin Encarnacion capped the evening with a three-run no-doubt blast.
If the big boppers can deliver and the strong starting pitching continues its form, this Toronto team should worry the opposition.
Lost in the shuffle of the dramatic walkoff victory was the quality defence that the Blue Jays showed off throughout the wild-card game.
Kevin Pillar made a highlight-reel catch in centre field, third baseman Josh Donaldson made several great plays and Troy Tulowitzki was his usual stellar self at shortstop.
Top-shelf defence makes everyone's jobs easier — especially the pitching staff — and Toronto will need that to continue given that the bullpen has been taxed in recent weeks.
The Blue Jays were unable to save one of their top starters for the wild-card game as they fought tooth and nail on the final weekend in Boston just to qualify for the post-season.
Marcus Stroman got the assignment Tuesday night and came through with a quality start when it counted and now Toronto can roll out its big guns for the ALDS.
Twenty-game winner J.A. Happ and youngster Aaron Sanchez provide one of the best one-two punches in the major leagues and both should get some Cy Young consideration.
Marco Estrada is a solid No. 3 on the starter depth chart while Stroman or Francisco Liriano could get the nod if the series goes more than three games.
Toronto led the American League with a 3.78 earned-run average in the regular season.
— Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016