The Blue Jays are riding high after a walk off win during the American League Wild Card game. Momentum from the start by Aaron Sanchez on Sunday carried into last night’s game and has only picked up pace since the huge home run by Edwin Encarnacion. The importance of momentum this time of the year is key to a team’s success.
Toronto has their swagger back after the win in Boston to clinch a Wild Card spot and home field advantage for the game. The game in Boston may have been the biggest game of the Blue Jays season and not only because it got them to the playoffs. Home field advantage for this game electrified this team. I could barely hear the announcers during the Wild Card game when Stroman took the mound.
The momentum established during game 162 lit a fire in the Blue Jays’ dugout. Aaron Sanchez took the ball and may have thrown the best start of his career, shutting down the potent Boston Red Sox with six innings of no-hit ball to open the game. Sanchez allowed just two hits and struck out six. The only bad pitch he threw over 7.0 innings was hit over the green monster by Hanley Ramirez for the only Red Sox run. The Jays offence did just enough with a home run by Devon Travis and a clutch single by Troy Tulowitzki.
Back to the Wild Card game. Marcus Stroman set the tone as he walked off the mound in a chaotic environment in the Rogers Centre. He threw shutout baseball for the first 3.0 innings and pounded his chest with a battle cry after each frame. Stroman’s fire put things into perspective and showed what this team is feeling early. In the 2nd inning, Jose Bautista hit a rain drop over the left field wall to put the Jays up 1-0. Bautista hit the ball high and deep and did not get into the celebration too much this time. This was key because the home run seemed to deflate the Orioles for the time being rather than fire them up.
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Mark Trumbo did take the wind out of the sails temporarily when he knocked a two-run bomb off of Stroman in the 4th. This appeared to be short-lived as Stroman bounced right back by striking out Matt Wieters and he walked off the mound to a thunderous applause from the Jays fans. A full inning later the unsung hero of the game, Ezequiel Carrera, drove in Micheal Saunders on a single. Carrera collected a pair of hits as an igniter in the 9th spot. This tied the game up and really got the crowd into the game.
In the 7th the crowd was thumping and lifted the Blue Jays out of a jam. Brett Cecil walked Chris Davis after collecting an out and Joe Biagini came in to a key spot. Biagini took that crowd encouragement and peppered the strike zone to take down the next two batters on strikeouts. The momentum on the mound kept on rolling as Jason Grilli worked a great 8th inning and was fist pumping every few seconds. The grilled cheese was cooking and the crowd was hanging on every pitch.
Roberto Osuna came on and was looking great. After recording a fly out, however, the Jays noticed some discomfort and removed him from the game. Blue Jays nation cringed with the sight but found out after the game he will reportedly be back for the ALDS. Francisco Liriano brought the Jays fans back to their feet as he provided a beautiful performance for 1.1 innings and earned the win
Blue Jays nation was still looking for something to cheer about in extras. Devon Travis got things going with a one-out single and osh Donaldson laced a single that moved Devo up to 3rd to set the stage for Edwin. On the first pitch from Ubaldo Jimenez, Edwin destroyed it over the left field wall. The crowd did not even need to watch the ball. The Rogers Centre erupted with joy at the crack of the bat and the entire team launched out of the dugout to greet Encarnacion at home plate. From there, the celebration began as the entire nation of Canada jumped for joy.
Encarnacion’s blast may have created the spark that could set the Blue Jays on a historic drive. This home run felt so similar to the home run that Roberto Alomar hit in the 1992 ALCS. That home run showed that the Blue Jays were winners and the momentum established there carried them to a victory over the Braves in the World Series. Momentum is a crazy thing and sometimes it comes from the smallest beginnings. Sanchez, Stroman, and Encarnacion have shifted things in the Jays favour and they will be going to Texas with a giant spring in their steps.