2016 American League Wild Card Game
(Redirected from 2016 ALWC)
|2016 American League Wild Card Game|
|Toronto Blue Jays
89 - 73 in the AL
|1 - 0
89 - 73 in the AL
The 2016 American League Wild Card Game marked the first ever postseason meeting between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles, but the two teams knew each other quite well, having been division rivals since the Blue Jays' inception in 1977. They had met for key three-game series at the Rogers Centre only a few days earlier, with the Orioles taking two of three games. They had finished with identical records of 89-73, the Jays getting the right to host the game by virtue of their better head-to-head record.
The Blue Jays won a tightly-contested game, 5-2, in 11 innings to move on to the Division Series.
The Orioles had reached the postseason thanks to the home run, featuring American League home run leader Mark Trumbo surrounded by a number of other power hitters such as Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones. They struck out a lot and hardly ever stole a base, but they could strike with the long ball at any time.
On the mound, manager Buck Showalter had delegated Chris Tillman, owner of a solid 16-6 record, but whose history of pitching in Toronto was not particularly good, with an ERA over 6.00. He had been preferred to Ubaldo Jimenez, who had had an excellent second half and was coming off an outstanding performance in Toronto a week earlier in which he had completely baffled the Jays' batters.
Both teams had decided to go with ten pitchers on their rosters, dropping a few starters in order to have a packed bullpen. At the top of the Orioles' bullpen heap stood Zack Britton, the best closer in the majors during the regular season.
The Blue Jays were still riding their reputation earned a year earlier as the best hitting team in the majors, but in fact their strength this season had been their pitching, as they were the only team in the AL to post an ERA under 4.00. However, manager John Gibbons had tabbed Marcus Stroman to start: he was cocky and had pitched well in the postseason a year earlier, but his season had been up-and-down, with his ERA the highest among Blue Jays starters. There was also some question regarding the bullpen, given that Joaquin Benoit was not available, and that it was not clear who Gibbons would turn to beyond his two top men, Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli.
On the offensive side, the big weapons were 3B Josh Donaldson and DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion, but there was plenty of other firepower, starting with 2B Devon Travis at the top of the batting order all the way to 9th-place hitter Ezequiel Carrera. Contrary to the Orioles, the Blue Jays were a very patient team, seeing more pitches than any team in the AL, and they were playing at home, in front of a large and boisterous crowd.
|1||Baltimore Orioles 2 Toronto Blue Jays 3||October 4||Chris Tillman (0-0) Marcus Stroman (0-0)||8:08 pm|
Game 1 @ Rogers Centre
|WP: Francisco Liriano (1-0); LP: Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TOR - Jose Bautista (1), Edwin Encarnacion (1); BAL - Mark Trumbo (1)|
- Attendance: 49,934
Marcus Stroman started off the game like gangbusters for the Blue Jays, retiring the first nine batters he faced and looking untouchable for the first three innings, His opponent on the mound, Chris Tillman, got off to a good start as well, with a perfect 1st inning, but he was tagged for a home run by Jose Bautista to lead off the 2nd, a sky-high drive that landed just beyond the left-field fence. Bautista was the only batter to reach for both teams through the first three innings. In the top of the 4th, Adam Jones led off with a single, but Stroman retired the next two batters, including Manny Machado on a beautiful diving catch by Kevin Pillar in centerfield. The crowd was still cheering that great play when Mark Trumbo quieted them by hitting the next pitch over the left field wall for a 2-1 Orioles lead. In the top of the 5th, Michael Bourn singled and stole second base for Baltimore - a very atypical move for a team that hardly ever ran during the regular season - but he was left stranded. The Jays then got to Tillman. With one out, Michael Saunders hit an automatic double, then Pillar followed with a ball to the right field corner which Bourn got a glove on but dropped for another double. However, Saunders thought that it would be caught, and only advanced to third base. Ezequiel Carrera continued his clutch hitting of the last few weeks of the regular season with a single to center. Saunders scored but Pillar got a bad jump and was held up at third base. The Jays then paid the price for being conservative on the bases as Mychal Givens replaced Tillman and, on his first offering, Devon Travis grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The score stayed tied at 2 for a long time. Tillman was out of the game, but Givens pitched beautifully, retiring the Jays in order in the 6th, then after two outs in the 7th, gave way to lefty Donnie Hart as Saunders was due up. Pinch-hitter Melvin Upton batted for him and sent a drive to the warning track in left which was caught by Hyun Soo Kim. There was an ugly incident on that play, as a Blue Jays fan threw a beer can towards Kim; the projectile missed him, but not by much, and the Orioles were incensed. For his part, Stroman left the game after a scoreless 6th, having given manager John Gibbons everything he was looking for. Brett Cecil took over in the top of the 7th, but after one out, he walked Chris Davis; rookie Joe Biagini was summoned to the mound and he struck out the next two batters, Jonathan Schoop and Bourn.
The Jays' bullpen was now in full control. Veteran Jason Grilli was called to pitch the 8th and he reeled off a cool 1-2-3 inning. For the O's, Brad Brach gave up a single to Carrera with one out, but then induced Travis to ground into his second double play of the evening. In the 9th, closer Roberto Osuna came out for Toronto and he was electric, with another perfect inning featuring a couple of strikeouts. It was harder going for Brach, pitching his second inning. He allowed a lead-off double to Josh Donaldson, and then walked Edwin Encarnacion intentionally. Bautista was up next, but he struck out looking. Buck Showalter then elected not to bring in his closer, Zach Britton, who had been warming up, as he was lefthanded and the Jays' line-up was composed solely of righthanded batters at that point. So it was sidearming righty Darren O'Day who faced Russell Martin with the season on the line, and like Givens in the 5th, he needed only one pitch to produce an inning-ending double play. At the end of regulation time, the Jays had had almost all of the opportunities to score, but had squandered them. Extra innings would be required.
Given there was no tomorrow for the losing team, Gibbons asked Osuna to pitch a second inning, something he had done just a few days earlier in securing an important save against the Boston Red Sox, but this time, he felt something wrong with his shoulder while getting lead-off hitter Davis to fly out. Francisco Liriano, who was normally a starter but had pitched very well for the Jays in September after a terrible first half with the Pittsburgh Pirates, took over on the mound. He induced a couple of ground balls to end the inning. O'Day then pitched a perfect 10th. Liriano got two more ground balls and a strikeout in the top of the 11th, preventing the Orioles from mounting any hint of a threat. In the bottom of the inning, Showalter decided to keep Britton available for a possible save opportunity and called first on Brian Duensing to face Carrera, whom he struck out. He then motioned for starter Ubaldo Jimenez to come in. Jimenez had muzzled the Jays at the Rogers Centre in his final start of the season less than a week earlier, but he was also a lefty facing a line-up loaded with righties, and had not had much experience of pitching in relief in his career. He first faced Travis, who ripped a single to left. Donaldson then did the same, advancing Travis to third. Up next was Encarnacion, the Jays' best hitter during the regular season, and on the first pitch he saw, he sent the ballpark into a frenzy with a long drive to left field, a three-run walk-off homer that traveled an estimated 440 feet. The Blue Jays were moving on to face the Texas Rangers in the Division Series and the Orioles were left to wonder why they had never used Britton, their top pitching weapon, in the most important game of the year.
- Gregor Chisholm and Brittany Ghiroli: "Blue Jays oust O's in 11th on Edwin's blast", mlb.com, October 5, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Why didn't the Orioles use Zach Britton in wild-card loss to Blue Jays?", USA Today Sports, October 5, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off delivers dream rematch: Blue Jays vs. Rangers", USA Today Sports, October 5, 2016. 
|Major League Baseball Wild Card Game|