TORONTO -- For the second time in the 2016 postseason, Edwin Encarnacion delivered a huge hit for the Blue Jays in a must-win game, helping his team earn a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday at Rogers Centre.The "circumstances," to use a term
TORONTO -- For the second time in the 2016 postseason, Edwin Encarnacion delivered a huge hit for the Blue Jays in a must-win game, helping his team earn a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday at Rogers Centre.
The "circumstances," to use a term from earlier in the series, seemed to swing Toronto's way after a rare questionable decision by Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose team had a chance to sweep the ALCS.
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With runners on the corners and no outs in the seventh inning, Francona chose to walk Josh Donaldson to load the bases, setting up a showdown between reliever Bryan Shaw and Encarnacion.
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Much like he did with his walk-off home run in the AL Wild Card Game against the Orioles on Oct. 4, Encarnacion took matters into his own hands and made sure the Blue Jays would see another postseason game by ripping a two-run single up the middle, extending the lead to 4-1.
"I thought it was a bit surprising," Toronto catcher Russell Martin said about Francona's decision to walk Donaldson and face Encarnacion, who tied for the AL lead in RBIs (127) this year. "I keep telling myself not to be surprised. In this game, you always see something you don't normally see. Right there it's a pick-your-poison scenario. And our guy came through."
Francona noted the decision was based on a couple of external factors, before tipping his cap to Encarnacion.
"It's a difficult situation all the way around," Francona said. "But rather than play the infield in without a forceout with Donaldson, I decided with the forceout at the plate and pitch to Encarnacion.
"Either way, it's not the most desirable situation. Early in the game, you certainly wouldn't do something like that. But in a game where we can't give up another run -- we had two hits -- that seemed to me to put us in the best position. It didn't work."
Part of Francona's decision also had to do with Donaldson, as the reigning AL MVP Award winner had already homered to give the Blue Jays the early lead, and he is batting .438 in the postseason. For his part, Donaldson said he didn't think too much about the decision before passing the baton to his teammate.
"I'm not too concerned about what they do," Donaldson said. "But to say the least, I was a l
ittle surprised because I just had a terrific season, and there's no outs. Walking up to the box, I wasn't thinking I was about to get an intentional walk."
Encarnacion's penchant for big moments hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates, and neither has his ability to make adjustments. The 33-year-old recognized the Indians' approach in attacking the outer half of the plate, and Encarnacion took the ball the other way and up the middle in each of his at-bats on Tuesday, finishing 2-for-4.
"He's a guy that takes what's given," Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders said. "Countless years of 100-plus RBIs speaks for itself. Some situations you might be looking to drive the ball in the gap, but in that situation, just giving us one more run was a little bit more of a cushion. He's a professional, and he understands what his job was."
*Alykhan Ravjiani * is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.