You could not have written a better ending. Jose Bautista has his own signature moment as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. And now, so does Edwin Encarnacion.
He gave the Blue Jays complete and utter elation in a game in which the team was so close to being sent home for the season. But at a time when the Blue Jays needed one of their best hitters to deliver, Edwin Encarnacion did exactly that.
To be honest, I’m not even really sure how it happened. As I sat perched in the second row from the very top of the Rogers Centre, all I saw was Edwin Encarnacion hit the ball into the outfield. And then I started screaming at the top of my lungs.
It was only after several minutes of high-fiving people in my row and standing there in disbelief that I asked the person next to me “Did he homer? Did he touch home plate?”
Nobody wanted to leave the Rogers Centre after that home run. Everybody wanted to bask in the glory … and for a good 30 minutes or so, fans stood and cheered long after the players had long left the field.
Encarnacion’s lore as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays was solidified, and he also likely just sent his asking price skyrocketing. No matter, because he’s probably worth every single penny.
What a wild, wild finish. Entering this game, I thought this had the potential to be a high-scoring game. Traditionally, the Blue Jays have teed off on Chris Tillman, and this season the Orioles have pretty decent numbers against Marcus Stroman.
But the starters were a wash and it all came down to the bullpens; for the Blue Jays, the relief arms, and for the Orioles, undoubtedly the one reliever they didn’t use.
I’ll be honest, when it shifted into a bullpen game, I was fearful of the Blue Jays’ chances. The Orioles held the edge in the relief pitching department, but luckily the Blue Jays were the home team and had the final chance to hit. And once the starters were knocked out, there were heart palpitations with each subsequent reliever to enter the game.
But it worked. Everything worked. For all the heat the Blue Jays and John Gibbons may have taken for starting Marcus Stroman over Francisco Liriano, it proved to be the right move. The Blue Jays received six solid innings out of Stroman and they were able to employ their left-handed secret weapon in the bullpen: Liriano.
I remember at one point looking next to the folks beside us and saying “they aren’t going to win this game unless they homer”. And for the most part, the Blue Jays haven’t been victorious unless they go yard at least once.
Swinging for the fences is the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays strategy, almost to a fault. But it’s also the very same M.O. which has gotten them this far – the same one which is sending them to Texas to play the Rangers in the ALDS.
As far as a playoff game, you really couldn’t get much better than that. It was a well-pitched game, the defense was solid and there was just barely enough timely hitting. If you had to draft up the most nail-biting Wild Card game, that probably would’ve been it.
The Blue Jays-Orioles AL Wild Card game now comes a very close second to Game 5 of the ALDS in terms of sheer entertainment value and excitement. Both were winner-take-all games, both started by Marcus Stroman, and both games had big home runs from their big boppers.
I will never forget that game. I probably lost my voice last night, busted my sunglasses, lost numerous things out of my pockets and likely have calluses from all the clapping I did. I’ll always remember that AL Wild Card game because it elevated Edwin Encarnacion into an entirely new echelon.
Jose Bautista has the bat flip. And now Edwin Encarnacion has one too. And they may not even be done yet.