Live and Die by the Long Ball

The wild card rivalry game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays was everything that it was hyped-up to be. Wow what a game! If you did not get the chance to see it, trust me when I say that you missed out on a good one!

Tonight's match up pitted O's starter Chris Tillman against the Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman. Both starters looked good early on, but things quickly went bad for Tillman. He made one mistake on a 3-1 count to Toronto power hitter Jose Bautista, who took him deep to left field in the 2nd for an early 1-0 Jays lead. He faltered in the 5th inning again, giving up another run and getting knocked out after only 4 2/3 pitched. A timely double play ball got the O's out of what could have been a blowup inning. 

Stroman on the other hand was dominant throughout. He retired the first 9 batters he faced. In the 4th inning he gave up a lead off single to Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones. Then he quickly retired Kim and Machado, with some help from a spectacular diving catch from Kevin Pillar in center. Stroman made one mistake during his 6 innings of work, and that was a homerun ball to the Orioles most dangerous hitter, Mark Trumbo. The slugger took Stroman yard over the left field fence, giving Baltimore their only runs of the night.

The 7th inning on was the battle of the bullpens. Both pens pitched extremely well, and neither seemed ready to give an inch. Baltimore's defense kept them in the game late. Josh Donaldson led off the 9th with a double. After intentionally walking Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista had a chance to play hero. He proceeded to go down looking, called out on strikes. After a pitching change, relief man Darren O'Day forced Russell Martin to ground into an inning ending double play. Who doesn't love extra innings?!?

Until the 11th inning, neither team did much offensively. In fact, the Orioles did not amass a hit after the 6th inning of the game! To lead off the bottom of the 11th, Ezequiel Carrera was called out on strikes, caught looking by pitcher Brian Duensing. After a pitching change where O's manager Buck Showalter chose to go with Ubaldo Jimenez, things fell apart. 

After a rough night at the plate, Devon Travis singled to left field. On the very next pitch, Josh Donaldson singled to left field. When Nolan Reimold bobbled the ball, Travis took third with some heads up baserunning. After a quick coaching visit to the mound, Jimenez looked on to Encarnacion, who only needed one pitch. 

Encarnacion sent one soaring into the Toronto night. Everyone knew off the crack of the bat that the ball was long, long gone. After pausing to raise his arms in celebration, Edwin rounded the bases as the baseball landed four rows deep in the second deck on the left-center bleachers. Rogers Center went nuts, as did the Blue Jays, as they all celebrated a crazy wild card game win! 

Orioles closer Zach Britton, who had a .54 ERA on the season with 47 saves, never even got into the game. Fans will no doubt be questioning his lack of use in the days to follow. Up next for the Blue Jays is a highly anticipated series against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. We all remember what happened earlier in the year between Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista. This is gonna be a good one folks, hold on for the ride!!!