Edwin Encarnacion bludgeoned a long home run deep into the Toronto night in the bottom of the 11th inning of the AL Wild Card Game, sending the hometown Blue Jays into the American League Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore now heads back home for a long winter of reflection after their mighty offense of heralded home run hitters fails to yield a single Postseason victory.
Most of the baseball world expected an epic slugfest in the American League Wild Card Game. Instead, they got a clinic in the importance of a strong bullpen in this day and age.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman retired the first nine men he faced in the ballgame and lasted 6 innings overall, surrendering two earned runs on four hits while striking out six. The Blue Jays’ bullpen threw 5 hitless innings, stifling a vaunted Orioles offense while allowing just one baserunner from the seventh inning on.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter had a much shorter leash with Chris Tillman, letting his ace go just 4 1/3 innings despite allowing a scant two runs of his own.
All of Baltimore’s offense came courtesy of a Mark Trumbo 2-run 4th inning homer, giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead that seemed unlikely to hold up in this battle of hard-hitting ballclubs. Even so, the game was tied at two headed into the bottom of the ninth when Darren O’Day induced a double play on his first pitch after coming into the game.
Toronto now goes on to face the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.