In the first game of the MLB Playoffs, the Toronto Blue Jays have won the 2016 American League Wild Card game 5-2 as Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off, three-run homer in the 11th inning. In a game that had remained tied at 2-2 since the fifth inning, it was Encarnacion’s moon-shot blast to left field that proved the difference.
Ubaldo Jimenez came out of the bullpen with one out in the 11th inning and went on to allow a single to Devon Travis and a single to Donaldson as Travis was able to get to third base. With runners at the corners, Encarnacion delivered the game-winning home run as Jimenez left a fastball middle-in.
Toronto will now head to Arlington where they’ll meet Texas for the first game of their American League Division Series on Thursday.
It was a pretty standard opening as both teams settled into the game before Jose Bautista did the only thing Bautista does in postseason games and that was blast a home run. His solo shot in the bottom of the second inning gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. It was Bautista’s fifth postseason homer in just his 12th game.
One thing fans have come to love about these wild card games is just how rowdy the crowds are. All postseason games are a great spectacle, but the noise the crowd makes during a wild card game can only be matched by game 7 of a World Series. The Rogers Centre was electric throughout the game, but it went up a notch when Bautista sent them into a frenzy with his homer to left.
Marcus Stroman motored through the Orioles lineup with nine up and nine down in the opening three frames, but then he got himself into trouble during the fourth inning. Adam Jones was able to line a ball into right field to lead off the inning before Kevin Pillar made an amazing diving catch in center field to rob Manny Machado of an extra-base hit.
It seemed as though Stroman might be able to get out of the inning without any damage, but then Mark Trumbo came to the plate. As he had done 47 times this season, Trumbo put a ball over the left field wall to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Ezequiel Carrera would be quick to tie things up though on an RBI single to center that plated Michael Saunders in the fifth inning.
With two outs in the seventh, Melvin Upton Jr. hit a ball out to left field that was a regulation catch for Hyun Soo Kim. As Kim was making the catch, a Blue Jays fan threw a can down onto the field right in front of Kim and Adam Jones was livid as he ran over and shouted at the fan.
The game turned into a battle of the bullpens and neither wanted to flinch. The Blue Jays relievers combined for five innings of shutout baseball as they walked just one, and the Orioles were doing the same before Brad Brach got them into some trouble in the bottom of the ninth inning. After allowing a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson, Brach then intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion to bring Bautista to the plate.
Unlike earlier in the game, the man they call ‘Joey Bats’ struck out on a breaking ball from Darren O’Day before Russell Martin grounded into an inning-ending double play to take the game into extras tied at 2. That was where it remained until Encarnacion broke the deadlock with his 11th-inning three-run homer to give the Blue Jays the win.
Toronto’s starter Marcus Stroman went six innings while allowing two runs on four hits with six strikeouts. Stroman is now 2-0 in four postseason starts dating back to last year. He’ll now line up to pitch game four of the division series against Texas. Chris Tillman meanwhile never looked quite as effective on the mound, working just 4 1/3 innings with two runs on four hits and four strikeouts.
Next up in the MLB Playoffs is the National League Wild Card game at 8 pm tomorrow night. That matchup will pit Mets star Noah Syndergaard against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner at Citi Field. This game will air nationally on ESPN.