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Managers say wild-card game is a tough ask but have no complaints being here

A Toronto Blue Jays fan sits outside the Rogers Centre before American League wild-card game action against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct.4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
October 04, 2016 - 3:29 PM

TORONTO - For most of the year, baseball is the slow cooker of sports. It takes six months and 162 ingredients per team.

The wild-card game throws that recipe out the window. It's one day with everything on the line, more like throwing something on the BBQ briefly and hoping it comes out right.

"I'll take it, compared to being at home tonight," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said of the wild wild-card ride. "I wouldn't be watching the game, but it sure beats the alternative."

"Actually there's a lot I don't like about it because we're playing in it but I think it's the way it ought to be," added Toronto manager John Gibbons. "If you don't win your division, there's two teams that get a shot at it so you need to make it really tough to get in there. That's why everyone focuses on trying to win the division."

The challenges continue for the wild-card winner, with a rested Texas Rangers waiting in the wings.

"They earned it ... If we didn't like it, then play better and be that divisional winner," said Showalter.

Just coming up with a wild-card lineup is a challenge. Asked how he chose his roster for Tuesday night's showdown with the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, Showalter cited a laundry list of scenarios that had to be addressed from keeping starters in reserve to thinking about extra innings.

"As much as your total emphasis is on this game ... you have to live to fight another day too," he said.

Gibbons said he chose his 25-man roster after conferring with his coaches, analytics experts and front office. He also listened to his own gut.

"It's not a perfect science, either," he said of managing. "It's really a game of human beings out there performing. An inch or two might make the difference between success and failure."

Showalter no doubt ticked all those same boxes, but he wasn't about to be paralysed by analysis.

"You don't have time to dwell on all the nuances. It's about a baseball game. It's nine innings or whatever amount and our guys have worked so hard to get a chance at this," he said. "And the game's not always fair. But most times if you're true to it, it lets you up off the deck.

"I know our guys deserve to get something out of this season but so does Toronto, so do the other eight teams in it. It's why it's so fascinating for people to watch, because you've got all these good things that meet and someone's going to go away. There's only going to be one team really happy when this is all said and done. And it can be emotionally challenging."

That includes winning when you're expected to win.

"That's one of the most challenging things in team sports — winning when there are expectations," said Showalter. "They call it the burden of expectations. That's why these teams that can consistently win and compete have my utmost respect because it's so hard to keep that mentality over a long season."

Baltimore beat Texas in 2012 to win the first AL wild-card game in the expanded format.

"We got that ugly hat to show for it," Showalter recalled wryly. "Right now I've got two sweatshirts and a hat to show for it. I hope we get a little more to show afterwards (this time)."

The Orioles subsequently lost their division series to the Yankees.

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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