Blue Jays Advance With Walk-Off HR
With one swing of the bat, Edwin Encarnacion brought a nation to its feet and set up another playoff date with the Texas Rangers.
The Blue Jays first baseman ripped a first pitch fastball from Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez for a walk-off, three run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to give Toronto a thrilling 5-2 win over Baltimore in the American League wild card game. The win sends the Blue Jays to the American League Division Series, where they will face the Texas Rangers. It’s the second straight year the two teams have met in the ALDS. Last year, the Jays won the series in Game 5, after Jose Bautista hit his now-iconic three run home run off Rangers reliever Sam Dyson.
“I was looking for a fastball, and I was trying to put a barrel on it,” Encarnacion told MLB.com after the game. “A little bit in front of it because the infield was playing in, and I actually got it. … I was really happy, mostly because it was an extra-inning game. It was just a very special moment for us.”
The rally began after Orioles reliever Brian Duensing got Ezekiel Carrera to strike out for the first out of the bottom of the 11th. Rather than bringing in closer Zach Britton, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter decided to hand the ball to Jimenez who, while having pitched well of late, had been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for much of the season. Devon Travis greeted Jimenez with a single. Josh Donaldon singled on the first pitch he saw to put runners at first and third with one out. Still, Showalter did not bring in Britton, who had the lowest Earned Run Average in MLB this season. Encarnacion made him pay for the decision by putting the first pitch he saw into the left field stands.
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Marcus Stroman gave the Blue Jays exactly what they needed in the wild card game, a solid performance. He gave up two runs on four hits with six strikeouts in six innings of work. The Jays bullpen held the Orioles scoreless for the rest of the game.
Blue Jays fans were surely concerned though in the 10th inning when closer Roberto Osuna had to leave the game with an apparent injury. After the game, he told reporters he felt something in the front of his pitching shoulder, but that the doctor said he would be fine.
The game was marred by poor fan behaviour in the 7th inning. While matching a catch on a fly ball to deep left field, Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim had a beer can thrown in his direction from the stands. It landed a few feet away from him as he made the catch. Reports on social media also mentioned that some fans in that area were shouting racial slurs at Kim and Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.
The Blue Jays now head to Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS in Arlington on Thursday.