Encarnacion’s 11th-inning HR lifts Jays over O’s, into ALDS
TORONTO — Edwin Encarnacion advanced Toronto to the AL Division Series in the Blue Jays' familiar manner — with a big home run.
Encarnacion hit a three-run drive in the 11th inning off Ubaldo Jimenez, and Toronto beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in Tuesday night's AL wild card game to advance to a Division Series matchup against old foe Texas.
"It was a very special moment and a very special opportunity," Encarnacion said through a translator.
Jose Bautista also homered for the Blue Jays, who open the Division Series on Tuesday at Texas. Encarnacion's homer brought back memories of the tiebreaking, three-run shot that Bautista hit in the seventh inning of Game 5 of last year's AL Division Series win over the Rangers, a shot punctuated by a memorable bat flip.
And the Blue Jays won their last World Series title in 1993 on Joe Carter's walkoff home run.
"I was looking for a fastball and I was trying to put the barrel on it, get a little bit in front because the infield was playing in, and I actually got it," Encarnacion said.
Jimenez relieved Brian Duensing with one out in the 11th, and Devon Travis singled in a 1-1 pitch. Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson singled on the next pitch, and Travis went all the way to third as left fielder Nolan Reimold bobbled the ball.
Encarnacion sent the following pitch, a 91 mph offering, soaring into the second deck in left. Encarnacion immediately knew it was gone and raised both arms in triumph, index fingers pointed skyward.
The crowd of 49,934 chanted "Eddie, Eddie!" as Encarnacion circled the bases before being greeted by a mob of teammates. Encarnacion matched his career-best with 42 home runs in the regular season.
Jimenez said he was trying to throw a low slider and induce a double play.
"It didn't do anything," Jimenez said. "It stayed up."
Orioles closer Zach Britton, who was perfect in 47 save chances during the regular season, never got in the game.
"Nobody has been pitching better for us than Ubaldo," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "It didn't work out."
Britton warmed up three times but didn't leave the bullpen.
"It's frustrating but it's not my call," Britton said. "It was just frustrating to have to sit there and watch."
Francisco Liriano retired five straight batters on four groundouts and a strikeout for the win after closer Roberto Osuna left with a sore shoulder.
"The doctor told me that I was going to be fine, I just need a couple of days," Osuna said. "I've been pitching a lot lately. They think it's just fatigue from the last couple of weeks."
Toronto beat Texas in five-game Division Series, sparked by Bautista's memorable homer. The teams brawled in May this year when Bautista was punched in the face by Rangers infielder Rougned Odor following a play at second base.
"It's going to be a very interesting series, and we're looking forward to it," Encarnacion said.
The roof was open at Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, where all 24 previous postseason games had been played with it closed.
Bautista led off the second against Chris Tillman with his fifth postseason homer. Mark Trumbo, who led the major leagues with 47 home runs, gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer off Marcus Stroman.
Ezequiel Carrera's RBI single chased Tillman in the fifth.
When Toronto pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the warning track in left field to end the seventh, Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was nearly struck by a can that was thrown from the stands. Center fielder Adam Jones angrily gestured toward the seats, and Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires.
"It's tough when you have that may people in the ballpark and one person does something that reflects poorly on all of them," Showalter said. "It can happen in any ballpark. I don't like anything that puts our guys in harm's way.
Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during game 5 against Texas last year, upset at the call that let Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin's throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo's bat.
Jones wasn't as diplomatic as his manager.
"That is about as pathetic as it gets," he said. "I hope they find the guy and press charges."
Stroman allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, struck out six and walked none. Tillman gave up two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
This was the second extra-inning wild card game. Kansas City rallied to beat Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in 2014.
Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who starred for the Blue Jays and Orioles, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.