“I threw a lot more curveballs, cutters, I tried to mix more,” said Stroman, who allowed four runs over seven innings against the Orioles last week. “Last time out I threw a lot of heaters and they were pretty aggressive so I wanted to come in and keep them off balance. I had my curveball going early so we rolled with it.”
The Blue Jays leveled in the fifth when Michael Saunders hit a one-out, ground-rule double and then waited at second to ensure Michael Bourn didn’t chase down Pillar’s smash to the right-field corner. It went off Bourn’s glove, Saunders advanced to third and then scored when Carrera blooped a single to centre.
That was it for Tillman, and Travis promptly turned Mychal Givens’ first pitch into a 5-4-3 double play, an all too familiar ending to rallies this season for the Blue Jays. They led the majors by hitting into 153 twin-kills and hit into three Tuesday.
Still, the dome, open for the first time in the post-season, stayed as raucous and loud as any stadium in the big-leagues and who would have imagined that back when Dave Winfield was begging for noise. It had precisely the type of ambience you want during a playoff game, save for the one buffoon who threw a drink by Hyun Soo Kim as the left-fielder hauled in Melvin Upton Jr.’s drive to the warning track in the seventh inning.
That brought Showalter out to make one of his scenes, and for once it was justified.
The tension didn’t ease until Encarnacion’s big swing gave the Blue Jays another round.
In the end it was the Toronto bullpen which was the star of this show as they dealt out five consecutive innings of scoreless baseball. Jose Bautista hit a second-inning homer for the Jays, while Mark Trumbo countered with a two-run shot in the fourth off starter Marcus Stroman to account for both Baltimore runs.
“Both teams played so well,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Both teams deserved to win. I felt really good the whole game. It’s a close ballgame but I had a good feeling. Regardless they’ve burned us many, many times. It could have gone either way.”
Encarnacion was 0-for-3 with a walk when he came to the plate in the 11th.
“I was looking for a fastball, just to try to put the barrel on it,” said Encarnacion. “It was a very special moment and a very special opportunity to get it.”
The sellout crowd was in full roar from the moment the starting lineups were announced, blotting out all the normal sounds of a baseball game and it reached a crescendo when Bautista led off the second inning with a home run. Tillman fell behind the Jays slugger. With the count 3-0, Bautista had the green light and bounced a foul ball down the third base line. Bautista connected on the 3-1 fastball and it sailed on a high arc into the netting overtop the Blue Jays bullpen.
ESPN’s Alex Cora breaks down the sequence of events that led to Edwin Encarnacion hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to win the Blue Jays’ wild-card matchup with the Orioles.
Another out later, Stroman elicited a towering pop-up from Manny Machado. Stroman never even looked around. He was striding back to the dugout, almost at the third base chalk line, when Troy Tulowitzki settled under the ball to make the catch. That’s how assured Stroman was in the defence behind him. Didn’t even look.
That’s chutzpah. That, too, is Stroman.
A one-man Stro-show on the bump, all the tics and twitches and emoting. The drama-prince, bristling with attitude. Breathing into his hand, licking his fingers — a common pitching gesture, except with Stroman it’s almost like he’s tasting himself.
Red pepper. Black pepper. Jalapeno.
Dealing with heat, on this never-before kind of night — the wild card an unknown commodity for the Jays — disposing of the first inning in 12 quick pitches. Banging his chest and pointing to the sky after the second and you could read his lips: “I love you!” Who was that for? Who do you love up there, Marcus?
But the game wasn’t decided there, karmically or otherwise. That’s not how it works. No, it was decided in the moment. It always is. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Britton was healthy, was fine. Britton — the guy who was 47-for-47 in save opportunities this season — told reporters he warmed up three times, and never pitched, and was frustrated. It was a baffling decision. The Orioles, in the end, were not true to themselves. The Jays, so reliant all year on home runs and defence and pitching, were.
“Last year we were an offensive team that played pretty good defence and got timely pitching,” Pillar said. “This year’s been outstanding pitching from our starters and our bullpen, and defence.”
“This is one of the goals that we set out in spring training, was to make the post-season and we did that,” said Bautista before the game, in a scrum with the press that he didn’t seem in a hurry to end. “Now the next one is getting to the World Series, and then it’s winning it. So we’re on track. We just need to win tonight.”
They won. On they go. Now it’s the rematch: Texas again, the Rangers again, the chance for them to get even for Bautista’s bat flip or for the Jays to get even for Rougned Odor’s punch heard ’round the world.
“Obviously, there’s bad blood there,” said Pillar.
“With them, we have a little bit of history,” said Bautista.
The Blue Jays had one chance for a second chance, and by god they took it. Time to try again.
The last time Encarnacion boarded a plane to leave Toronto was a after series loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the final home game of the regular season. There was no goodbye for Encarnacion or Bautista, both of whom are potential free agents. So conclusive was the Orioles win and so silent the Blue Jays bats that many in the sell-out crowd had left before his final at-bat. There was no curtain call, no tribute.
Encarnacion sat in the dugout briefly after that loss, then admitted later in the clubhouse that it was no way to end a career in a city that was the site of a career rebirth. He became emotional, his voice cracking a bit, while Bautista was very much the opposite.
This moment of magic that reinforces the idea that maybe we really can have nice things in Toronto. Encarnacion could not have been clearer Tuesday night in reiterating that he wants to stay in Toronto, which will give succor to those who have felt all along that he is the less mercenary of the team’s two free-agent-to-be sluggers.
How sweet was it to hear chants of “Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die” five or six minutes after his homer pierced straight through the heart of Buck Showalter.
There was a strange vibe to this game right from the start, when Bautista held court with what was one of his longest media scrums of the season. It was the damnedest thing you’ve ever seen: Every single, solitary question answered – albeit with that typical challenging edge, often prefaced with some version of, “I’m not sure I understand your question” – to the point where I swear to the baseball gods it seemed as if Bautista never wanted it to end.
Addressing the notion it might be his final game in a Blue Jays uniform – let alone in Toronto – Bautista smiled mischievously and said, “Let’s not make it the last game, how about that?”
Edwin Encarnacion speaks with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez about his emotions after hitting the walk-off home run in the American League wild-card game.
So though they are Canada’s team, they don’t act particularly Canadian. That has evidently connected with people in a meaningful way. These Blue Jays perform the function of Toronto’s id.
They maintained that little ‘screw you’ edge all the way into ‘take-it-easy’ territory. They might’ve played the numbers and started Francisco Liriano against Baltimore. But as a late-season addition, he wasn’t yet of the Blue Jays.
Instead, they went with Stroman, their own man – now and for years to come. Before it was the right choice, it was a strong choice.
“I don’t really care what the outside world thinks,” Gibbons said. “Because they’re not in the position to have to make decisions. I tell you, it’s easy that way.”
Unlike so many of his charges, Gibbons has never displayed much growl. But here it finally is. He may be the last person in town to come over to Toronto’s hipster dark side.
Or maybe he’s psyching himself up for the Rangers. That could be the unfriendliest meeting since the Capulets last got together with the Montagues.
Tuesday was a rare burst of precision – all the parts of this Jays team finally fitting together as they should, practically from start-to-finish. What’s coming will be a war of attrition – doing more with less and trying to win ugly.
Given the history – both on Tuesday and a year ago – you have to kind of like Toronto’s odds.
Until the 11th our offense, once again we couldn’t get hits when we needed them. But then, Edwin Encarnacion, with 1-out in the 11th, hit a walk-off home run.
To set it up, with 1-out in the inning. Buck Showalter brought Ubaldo Jimenez into the game. Jimenez gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson. I was sure Showalter would pull him at that spot. Zach Britton still hadn’t been in the game.
Instead he leaves him in to face Edwin. First pitch was the game winner. If Britton isn’t injured, Showalter has to be fired.
Before that we didn’t do much.
troman would turn in an impressive outing despite many questioning the decision to start him. Stroman went a strong 6 innings with a line of 4 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB and 6 SO.
Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion weren’t going to be left out of the defensive showing either. With Cecil in to relieve Stroman, Matt Wieters chopped a ball off of the lefty towards third. Donaldson broke in to get to the ball quick, grabbing the slow chop with a bare-hand, firing it on to Edwin at first who made a fantastic scoop.
The Blue Jays pen that had been so shaky over the past few weeks performed incredibly admirably. The pen would combine for a line of 5IP 0H 0R 0ER 1BB and 6SO. This line would include contributions from Brett Cecil, rule 5 pick Joe Biagini, veteran Jason Grilli, young closer Roberto Osuna, and almost Wild Card starter Francisco Liriano.
Edwin. Encarnacion. Edwin walked off the Orioles in the bottom of the 11th blasting a monster home run to left field, sending the Jays to Texas. Just pay the man. The parrot deserves to be walked in Rogers center.
Gibbons left some in the media and if Twitter is any indication, some Blue Jays’ fans, befuddled by his decision to start Marcus Stroman over Francisco Liriano. The Orioles don’t hit left-handed pitchers well, Liriano had struck out 10 Baltimore hitters in a victory less than a week prior, and Stroman had pitched to an ERA north of 7.00 in four starts against the O’s this season.
No matter. Stroman was Gibbons’ guy in the deciding Game 5 of last year’s American League Division Series against Texas; he pitched opening day this season at Tampa Bay and made his next start in the home opener against Boston.
Forget the numbers. Gibbons went with his gut; he went with the guy he’s been going to war with for a couple of seasons.
“I know numbers have taken over this game; from a manager’s perspective you’ve got a comfort level with certain guys,” said Gibbons. “You know how they tick.
You’re in the clubhouse with them all year long or over the years; you know what they do in certain situations. It’s a game of failure but you know how their minds work. Some of them don’t get caught up in it, other guys do and I think that’s important in a game like this.”
Stroman’s flashy first inning
With an announced crowd of 49,934 crackling with energy from the opening pitch, Marcus Stroman kept them roaring with a perfect first inning, capped by a routine infield pop-up by Manny Machado. Displaying his usual swaggering confidence, Stroman started walking off the mound as soon as the ball left Machado’s bat and never looked back, like Nicolas Cage in front of an exploded building. The clean first set the tone for the 25-year-old, who was a controversial choice to start Tuesday’s game. Stroman went six innings, allowing just four hits while striking out six and earning eight ground-ball outs. A two-run homer to Mark Trumbo was his only blemish. “I’ve seen him pitch too many good games,” manager John Gibbons said afterward. “He pitches well at home. He gets a lot of ground balls. They hit a lot of home runs. You really just add it up.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons talks to Darren Dutchyshen and Steve Phillips about his decision to start Marcus Stroman, the big rally in the 11th inning and facing Texas in the ALDS.
Orioles closer Zach Britton says he’s frustrated he didn’t get to pitch for Baltimore in the American League wild-card game.
While his next start won’t be used on a Cy Young resume — Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes had to be filed prior to the first pitch of the post-season, which, in this case, was before the Blue Jays and Orioles lifted the playoff lid Tuesday night at Rogers Centre — Happ will get another turn.
Thanks to Edwin Encarnacion’s dramatic three-run home run off Baltimore Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving the Blue Jays a 5-2 win, Happ, on regular rest, could be in line to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the hated-in-Toronto Texas Rangers on Thursday in Arlington.
That would allow Aaron Sanchez to also go on full rest in Game 2 on Friday, setting up Marco Estrada for Game 3 back at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
Inside a champagne-soaked clubhouse — the second one in a three-day span — Happ didn’t know the exact rotation plan for the series against the Rangers.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do just yet, but the sooner the better — we’ll see,” Happ said. “It’d be great (to start Game 1). I’m just looking forward to going out and trying to do my thing and let these guys, hopefully, ride some momentum here. We’re playing solid baseball and that’s what we need to do to beat a great team like Texas.”
As fans and media have gone back and forth on who the Jays ace is this season — Sanchez might’ve ended that debate when he pitched the Jays into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season in Boston — Happ doesn’t really subscribe to the theory that there even has to be one.
“Really, the numbers — the No. 1, the No. 5, whatever — it doesn’t matter because every day that guy’s gotta be your ace,” Happ said. “When it’s your turn, it’s time to go.”
ESPN’s Alex Cora previews the Blue Jays’ American League Division Series matchup against the Rangers and explains why he thinks it will be an outstanding series.
In many of his conversations, Shapiro seemed to go out of his way to praise Gibbons. I was in Dunedin for only two weeks of spring training but heard Shapiro say a number of times: ‘Isn’t Gibby great?’, or words to that effect — often without being prompted. It was almost as if Shapiro was sending a message that, while Gibbons was a manager he inherited and was not HIS guy, the Jays skipper was certainly not on a short leash under Shapiro’s regime and was not going anywhere soon. Six months later, Gibbons is still here, but for how much longer?
The over-under in the Rogers Centre press box was that a loss Tuesday would result in Gibbons’ termination as the Jays manager, even though he has a year left on a two-year deal (at about $1.1 million per year). Thanks to Tuesday’s victory, Gibbons has at least bought himself some time. One school of thought is that Gibbons needs to take the Jays into the World Series this year to guarantee he’ll be back for 2017 — though it’s hard to fathom that any manager would get fired after leading his team to a spot in the AL Championship Series.
For whatever reason, Gibbons is not roundly celebrated in Toronto as a manager, even though he and Cito Gaston are the only Jays managers to take their team to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Gibbons also has a winning record as a manager in Toronto over nine seasons (and three interim games in 2003).
For his part, Gibbons has always said that while he loves managing in the big leagues, and loves managing in Toronto, he would be perfectly happy to spend a season at home in San Antonio with his family.
Gibbons has talked about how much time he has been away from his family — his wife Julie and their three kids — and how much he enjoyed managing in his hometown in 2012 — the San Diego Padres’ Double-A affiliate San Antonio Missions — between gigs with the Blue Jays. So it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Gibbons if he was let go. But, of course, he’s a competitor and takes great pride in his work and his goal this season, like everyone else in the Jays organization, was to go a step beyond from last season and win the World Series.
After a wild conclusion to their last meeting in May, the Blue Jays and Rangers will now clash in the ALDS. Dirk Hayhurst sheds light on what we can expect in the series and whether we should expect any bad blood to carry over.
After a brief meeting with Jays manager John Gibbons and a trainer on the mound, Osuna walked off, leaving lefty Francisco Liriano to get a pair of ground-ball outs to end the inning.
Osuna, who had already set the Orioles down in order in the ninth inning, said it was his shoulder that was bothering him.
“Front part of my shoulder,” Osuna said after the game. “It was like a stretch. When I threw the fastball up and away, it went like this, like a pretty big stretch and it started bothering me. So I threw one more pitch and it got bigger and I was like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ ”
While the 21-year-old closer feels like it’s nothing serious, Gibbons said he’s going to be cautious with Osuna and he likely won’t be available for the ALDS series opener against the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
If it were up to Osuna, he wouldn’t miss much time.
“The doctor told me that I was going to be fine,” Osuna said. “I just need a couple of days off. I have been pitching a lot lately and he thinks it’s just fatigue because of the last two weeks.”
After being removed from the American League wild-card game due to injury, Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna is confident he’ll be able to pitch in the American League Division Series.
Orioles outfielder Adam Jones says the fan who threw a can on the field in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s AL wild-card game is “pathetic” and expresses hope that charges are pressed against him.
Here’s the best thing: Tulowitzki and his signature rebel yell will be ’round these parts, barring trade or unforeseen acts of God, until 2021. Whatever happens in Tuesday’s wild-card tilt with Baltimore, Toronto gets Tulowitzki’s for a long stretch of the future. There isn’t much that can be preordained in baseball but the strapping star shortstop will be turning leaping double plays for the Jays far beyond the morning after of a season teetering on the knife-edge of elimination.
A significant number of his teammates have no such assurance. Nine are eligible for free agency at the end of the World Series. Five are arbitration-eligible. Seven significant players — including Aaron Sanchez, Robert Osuna, Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis — are under club control due to lack of service time.
It’s a nucleus going forward but there are huge holes looming beyond the most dominant starting rotation in the major leagues.
Maybe that’s not entirely a bad state of affairs. There has been considerable evidence in recent weeks that the Jays are a stale ball club. It happened surprisingly fast. And they’re old, if more positively characterized as “veteran.” But veterans have one foot on the career banana peel. Drop-off can arrive suddenly. We witnessed this most dramatically in the fielding erosion of Jose Reyes last season.
What will the Jays circa 2017 look like? It seems quite apparent the front office tall foreheads have run out of love for Jose Bautista, at least at the high escort service price the keynote slugger was allegedly demanding back in the salad days of spring training. Nor was there any sense of urgency in extending the contract for Edwin Encarnacion — and his value in the free-agent marketplace has skyrocketed. Really poor baseball actuarial table analysis, that, by president Mark Shapiro et al. Not that there is much of an et al beyond Mark Shapiro. The Jays are a Shapiro theocracy.
The issue of Bautista — past, present and future — is a hot one in baseball, and not just in Toronto. ESPN.com shook things up a little more with a timely and provocative headline hours before Tuesday’s first pitch, asking “Why is Jose Bautista so loathed?”
The answer is like the man himself, complicated. Bautista doesn’t make it easy on himself, starting with the celebrated bat flip last year against the Texas Rangers, his aloofness and a confidence bordering on arrogance. Not that he cares about those perceptions.
To get a measure of what Bautista means and has meant to this team, when it came time to fill out his lineup card on Tuesday, Gibbons played a hunch and moved him from DH to right field, hoping to light a fire under the superstar.
“We were forced to DH him (during the regular season) quite a bit because of leg injuries and things like that,” Gibbons said. “I think it’s perfect. Home field, put him out there and let him go.”
In other words, get him into the game early. It seemed like an eternity, but when Encarnacion showed up with the late heroics, the future could wait for both. The present, as it turned out, is exciting enough.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
Once again, this award is going to go to Rowdy Tellez. Tellez clearly led the club with a .917 OPS and was durable in addition to showing improvement throughout the year. Despite struggling in April, Tellez recovered for a strong May and June and kept improving throughout the year, dominating in August by hitting .333/.406/.640 with eight of his 21 home runs in the final complete month of the season.
Honourable mention: Dwight Smith, Jr., Jason Leblebijian, Christian Lopes