The Edwing lives! Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning on Tuesday night at the raucous Rogers Centre to beat the American League East-rival Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in the AL wild-card game. Encarnacion will be “walking his parrot” home-run trot next to Arlington, Texas, for Game 1 of the best-of-5 AL Division Series against the Rangers on Thursday. The Rangers are slight series favourites on Sports Interaction MLB odds thanks to home-field advantage.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers Schedule
Game 1: Thursday at Texas, 4:30 p.m. ET Game 2: Friday at Texas, 1 p.m. ET Game 3: Sunday at Rogers Centre, 7:30 p.m. ET Game 4 (if necessary): Monday at Rogers Centre, time TBA Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday at Texas, time TBA
Game 1 Odds: Jays move from +105 to -105.
Encarnacion’s shot was the fourth walk-off homer in a winner-take-all game in MLB postseason history — why did Orioles manager Buck Showalter not use star closer Zach Britton (47-for-47 in saves this year, MLB-best 0.54 ERA) in the 11th? Of course Joe Carter’s World Series-winning homer in 1993 for Toronto against the Phillies wasn’t a winner-take-all game but in Game 6.
Perhaps it was fitting that Encarnacion and Jose Bautista both homered Tuesday as it could have been their final game in a Blue Jays uniform. Both are free-agents-to-be. Would winning the franchise’s first World Series since ’93 be reason enough to re-sign both Encarnacion and Bautista even though it would be very, very expensive? Stay tuned.
Jays vs. Rangers ALDS Rematch
Of course the series against the Rangers is a rematch of last year’s ALDS won by the Blue Jays in five games despite losing the first two at home. Toronto’s Game 5 6-3 victory at Rogers Centre is arguably the second-most memorable playoff game in Blue Jays history with that wild seventh inning, capped by Bautista’s go-ahead three-run homer and emphasized bat flip that was heard around the world and will forever live in Jays lore.
The Rangers remembered that Bautista bat flip very well. Toronto and Texas played seven times this regular season, all in May. The Jays won four of the seven. In the final meeting, on May 15 in Arlington, the Rangers got their payback on Bautista for his playoff showboating.
In the eighth inning of that game, presumably the last time the Rangers would see Bautista this year, Texas pitcher Matt Bush drilled Bautista in the back with his first pitch. No question it was intentional. Shortly after, Bautista slid hard into Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor on a potential double play. The two started barking at each other and it led to Odor landing a right hook to Bautista’s jaw. A bench-clearing melee ensued — Jays manager John Gibbons had been ejected in the third inning for arguing but ran onto the field for the brawl — with a handful of players ejected. Naturally, Toronto pitcher Jesse Chavez hit the Rangers’ Prince Fielder (now retired) with a pitch as soon as the Jays took the field. That led to more ejections.
Kevin Pillar hit well against Texas in the regular season, batting .417 with five doubles and four RBIs. Justin Smoak was 11-for-27 with three home runs and six RBIs. Encarnacion was 8-for-27 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBIs. Troy Tulowitzki had two homers and four RBIs. Bautista didn’t homer in 28 at-bats but had five RBIs. Josh Donaldson was just 3-for-28 with seven strikeouts. Jays reliever Roberto Osuna was 1-0 with no runs allowed in three appearances vs. Texas. Osuna left the wild-card game in the 10th inning with a minor shoulder issue but expects to be fine for the ALDS. Marco Estrada was 0-0 vs. Texas with a 3.75 ERA in two starts. Aaron Sanchez also didn’t get a decision in two starts with a 5.93 ERA. Lefty J.A. Happ, who seems the likely Game 1 starter, was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA vs. Texas.
While the Blue Jays haven’t announced their rotation as of this writing, it’s likely to lefty Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32) for Texas in Game 1, Yu Darvish (7-5, 3.41) in Game 2 and Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.71) in Game 3. The Rangers’ best hitter vs. Toronto this year was rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara, who batted .345 with a homer. Odor hit only .194 and Adrian Beltre .154. Texas batters hit .219 against Toronto pitching, while Blue Jays hitters were at .280 vs. Rangers pitching. Keep in mind that Texas acquired two very good hitters, outfielder/DH Carlos Beltran and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, at the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
AL Pennant & World Series Odds
Even though Texas had the AL’s best record, it’s AL East champion Boston that is the +187 favourite to win the pennant on MLB odds, followed by the Rangers (+225), Blue Jays (+225) and Indians (+400). The Chicago Cubs, who had baseball’s best record, are +250 favourites to win the World Series. Toronto is at +600.
MLB Playoffs Prediction
Texas was an amazing team in one-run games this season at 36-11, historically good, compared to Toronto’s 21-25 record. So advantage Rangers. But Hamels, who could be lined up for Games 1 and 5, largely struggled in his final six starts and has just a 4.40 ERA at home. Advantage Blue Jays. Toronto wins in four and faces Boston in the ALCS.