Game Threat: Once In A Lifetime, Blue Jays (87-71) vs. Orioles (86-72)

Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Things could get dark tonight. It won’t be the end, of course, but it could be an end.

The game against Baltimore is, of course, massive. It carries huge playoff implications in an ever-tightening Wild Card race that may not even be solved by the end of the weekend, depending on the weather — which has already postponed a game between Detroit and Cleveland, which will be played on Monday, if necessary.

But there’s a deep undercurrent running beneath tonight’s game than all that. Will fans in Toronto be seeing Jose Bautista on the Rogers Centre field in a Blue Jays uniform for the last time? Edwin Encarnacion?

Jose has been here for eight full seasons and part of a ninth. He’s been one of the greatest, most dangerous, most feared hitters in baseball for seven of those — provided you’re kind enough to include this one. For Edwin it’s a similar story, though his arrival and his breakout came a little later. Edwin is the endpoint of a thread in this organization’s history that goes back to Miguel Bautista and Orlando Hudson — Hudson who was drafted by Gord Ash back in 1997. Those two were traded for Troy Glaus, who was traded for Scott Rolen, who was traded for Edwin.

It’s still no guarantee the Jays will host the Wild Card play-in game, or even play in it, meaning Bautista and Encarnacion may walk off the Rogers Centre field together as teammates for the final time tonight.

They’ve been at the centre of the Blue Jays’ lineup for longer than Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were together in Boston. Longer than Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar were teammates here.

It’s an incredible achievement. It’s been an incredible run. Let’s hope it’s not over — or that it won’t end in Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon (assuming no make-up games are necessary due to the downpours set for Boston this weekend), upstaged by Papi’s big regular season send-off. But on the chance that it is, let’s be sure to take in the moment. To appreciate it. To feel everything good we can about it, so we remember what that’s like when all the bitterness and acrimony of whatever happens with those two this winter starts to drag us down.

Better still: let’s fucking win this game and make sure it isn’t the end. Not yet anyway.

Scuttlebutt

Thank fuck Devon Travis is back! And yet Ezequiel “Alcides Escobar” Carrera leads off, which… sure! As long as it keeps working, that is.

John Gibbons says that Jason Grilli is unavailable out of the bullpen tonight and that Roberto Osuna… is… uh… he says he’s not sure about that. SO THERE’S A CHANCE HE USES HIM??? Yeesh, Gibbers. Don’t make it so hard for me to defend you!

The Jays have restructured their front office a little bit, which means… something? I dunno.

TV: Sportsnet
Next Game(s): Tomorrow @ Red Sox, 7:10 PM ET
AL Wild Card StandingsTOR (+1), BAL (-), DET (1), SEA (2), HOU (3.5)
And now, the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

Ezequiel Carrera(L) LF
Josh Donaldson(R) 3B
Edwin Encarnacion(R) 1B
Jose Bautista(R) DH
Russell Martin(R) C
Troy Tulowitzki(R) SS
Michael Saunders(L) RF
Kevin Pillar(R) CF
Devon Travis(R) 2B
Marcus Stroman RHP

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones(R) CF
Hyun Soo Kim(L) LF
Manny Machado(R) 3B
Mark Trumbo(R) DH
Matt Wieters(S) C
Chris Davis(L) 1B
Jonathan Schoop(R) 2B
Michael Bourn(L) RF
J.J. Hardy(R) SS
Ubaldo Jimenez RHP