The Toronto Blue Jays won the AL Wild Card game vs. the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, sending them to an ALDS rematch with the Texas Rangers.
The Blue Jays are developing a flair for the dramatic lately, and Tuesday’s Wild Card game was no exception.
The Jays sent Marcus Stroman to the hill against Chris Tillman in a move that was questioned by many fans and writers before the game. Stroman had an up and down season, finishing 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA, but the 25-year-old rewarded Gibbons for his trust in the sudden-death game.
Toronto got the scoring started in the 2nd inning when Jose Bautista led off with a solo shot to left. Bautista had a strong postseason showing in 2015, and started things off on the right foot again this October with the early home run off Tillman.
The Orioles struck back in the 4th when the MLB’s home run leader, Mark Trumbo, sent a drive into the left field seats, making the score 2-1 for Baltimore. Stroman recovered and finish with two runs and four hits allowed over 6.0 innings with six strikeouts.
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The score stayed the same until the 7th when the Blue Jays got back on the board. Michael Saunders led off the inning with a ground-rule double down the left field line, which was followed by another opposite-field hit by Kevin Pillar putting runners at second and third. Ezequiel Carrera delivered a big hit, sending Tillman’s last pitch of the day back up the middle to score Saunders. Mychal Givens came into the game and promptly got Devon Travis to ground into a double play to limit the damage.
Both clubs turned to their bullpens from the 7th inning on, and the managers and relievers did a masterful job of keeping the game tied. The Orioles used six relievers in the game, while the Blue Jays would use 5 as well. Orioles manager Buck Showalter curiously didn’t use the AL saves leader Zach Britton at any point in the winner-take-all matchup, a decision that will likely come with heavy criticism over the coming days.
The Blue Jays got a huge lift from Rule 5 pickup Joe Biagini when he struck out both batters he faced in the 7th inning. Jason Grilli came on to pitch a clean 8th, and closer Roberto Osuna took care of the 9th. However, neither the Jays or Orioles were able to score another run until extra innings.
In the 10th the Blue Jays got a scare when Osuna was removed from the game for precautionary reasons. The move could be questioned, but with a 21 year old star feeling something funny in his arm, there is no sense in risking a potential career altering injury. Francisco Liriano entered the game and promptly shut the door on the Orioles in the 10th and again in the 11th.
The Orioles brought on Ubaldo Jimenez in the 11th inning with one out and his night couldn’t have gone much worse. Devon Travis greeted him with a single and Josh Donaldson promptly singled to left to put runners on first and third with one out.
Edwin Encarnacion then further endeared himself to Blue Jays fans, not that much more was necessary at this point in his tenure with the club. The soon-to-be free agent sent a fastball into the second deck in left field, admiring his no-doubt blast before making his way around the bases. The walk off win is the Blue Jays’ fourth in team playoff history, and cements Encarnacion’s legacy in Blue Jays folklore, regardless of what happens for the rest of the playoffs and this offseason.
The Blue Jays now face the Texas Rangers in a dream re-match in the ALDS, which begins on Thursday in Arlington.