Encarnacion sends Blue Jays to ALDS with walk-off homer vs Orioles

Encarnacion sends Blue Jays to ALDS with walk-off homer vs Orioles


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 through a translator.

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 many 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.

Kevin Pillar made a diving catch on Manny Machado's liner to right-center in the fourth .

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.

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”