The Toronto Blue Jays (81-63) sit atop the American League wild-card standings as they welcome the Baltimore Orioles (75-67) to Toronto for a crucial three-game weekend series.
Per new wild-card rules instituted this season, the top three teams that do not win their division in each league will qualify for the playoffs and play a best-of-three series to advance to the next round.
While division series are always considered important, the fact that the Blue Jays hold the top wild-card spot and the Orioles are 4.5 games out of the third wild card spot adds a lot more to this one - especially considering the Jays, who are tied with the Seattle Mariners, are just a half-game up on the third place Tampa Bay Rays.
The season series currently sits at a 7-6 advantage for the Orioles through their first 13 meetings, and the teams are scheduled to meet for one more series at the end of the season in Baltimore.
Toronto has yet to announce a starting pitcher for Friday's game, which will serve as a bullpen day. The Orioles are sending Jordan Lyles (10-10) to the hill. Lyles is 2-0 with a 4.91 earned run average against the Blue Jays this season.
Saturday features a matchup between Blue Jays righty Jose Berrios (10-5, 5.07 ERA) and Orioles right-hander Kyle Bradish (3-6, 5.01 ERA). Berrios has struggled mightily at times this year, but his ERA over the last month is 3.38, and he's only allowed two home runs (he has allowed 28 on the season, tied for second-most in the majors).
On Sunday, Blue Jays' ace Alek Manoah (14-7, 2.43 ERA) will take the hill against Orioles' rookie righty Dean Kremer (7-5, 3.34 ERA).
Manoah was dominant in his last outing against Baltimore, when he recorded five strikeouts in eight innings of one-run ball to clinch the series on Sep 7.
Drama unfolded the last time the two teams met, when Orioles relief pitcher Bryan Baker motioned towards Jays slugger Teoscar Hernandez after striking him out. Both benches and dugouts cleared and both Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Junior had to be restrained off the field before tensions died down.
Over his last 15 games, Jays shortstop Bo Bichette has been on a tear, recording a .484 batting average, .984 slugging percentage and seven home runs. He was the American League Player of the Week last week.
On the season, Bichette has haunted the Orioles to a .339 batting average with six home runs in 13 games.
The Blue Jays remain 6.5 games back of the New York Yankees for the AL East pennant entering play on Friday.