TORONTO -- Last year, José Bautista did the bat flip heard 'round the world. This time, it was Edwin Encarnacion's time to shine.Encarnacion cemented his spot in Blue Jays history with a walk-off three-run homer that sent his team to a dramatic 5-2 victory Tuesday night over the Orioles in the
TORONTO -- Last year, José Bautista did the bat flip heard 'round the world. This time, it was Edwin Encarnacion's time to shine.
Encarnacion cemented his spot in Blue Jays history with a walk-off three-run homer that sent his team to a dramatic 5-2 victory Tuesday night over the Orioles in the American League Wild Card Game. The second he made contact, everybody knew it was gone.
In typical Blue Jays fashion, Encarnacion could not help but add a little flair to the celebration. As soon as the ball left his bat, Encarnacion raised both of his hands into the air, dropped the bat and gave a quick glance toward the O's dugout -- the biggest moment yet for one of the league's biggest stars.
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"I was really happy, mostly because it was an extra-inning game," Encarnacion said after putting his team back in the AL Division Series vs. the Rangers starting Thursday in Arlington at 4:30 p.m. ET (TBS in the U.S., Sportsnet in Canada). "It was just a very special moment for us, and it was just nice to see the ball leave the ballpark."
Bautista was the one responsible for putting the Blue Jays on the map during last year's ALDS vs. the Rangers. In Game 5, Bautista made headlines all over the world with a three-run shot off Texas reliever Sam Dyson. That homer gave Toronto a 6-3 lead in the seventh inning and helped his team advance to the AL Championship Series vs. Kansas City.
It's rather fitting that this year, the baton has been passed to Encarnacion. The two Dominican players have been teammates since 2009 and remain close friends both on and off the field. They've seen it all in this city. They were around for the dog days of the organization when the team had trouble attracting fans and even more difficulty competing against the AL East powerhouses of Boston and New York.
What a difference a couple of years make. The Blue Jays' resurgence began at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the momentum carried over into yet another run to the postseason in 2016. An organization that now leads the AL in attendance gets historic numbers on television and apparently now hits a lot of big home runs in the postseason.
"As soon as he touched it, we knew it was gone," said Bautista, who had a front-row view from the on-deck circle. "It was a great job on his part, getting a good pitch to hit and not missing it. He gave us the win and I'm just excited.
"Any time we can get to win a game, it doesn't matter who does it. Having a teammate and a friend do it in such a big moment, it's awesome. As soon as he hit the ball, I knew it was gone, I was celebrating and probably felt just as good as he did."
Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez became the victim in this scenario. After Encarnacion lifted the ball into the air, Jimenez turned and watched it sail toward the second deck in left field. He probably didn't need to, because there was no doubt about where this one was headed.
Encarnacion's home run went a projected 440 feet, which was tied for his third longest this season and seventh longest in the postseason Statcast™ Era. It also was the third-longest hit by anyone this season during extra innings and the second-longest extra-innings walk-off behind only St. Louis' Matt Adams (444 feet).
After the game, Jimenez said he was trying to get a sinker down in the zone for a potential inning-ending double play. He added, "But it didn't do anything. It stayed up." So did the trajectory of Encarnacion's homer and the emotions of a sold-out Rogers Centre. Toronto lives to see another day and a rematch vs. Texas awaits. The Blue Jays can only hope some big home runs make the trip south with them.
"He'll tell you the same thing, that was the biggest home run he's hit in his whole life," Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "What a way to end the game. To go 11 innings, biting on your nails, runs were tough to come -- for him to step up at that time and put the ball in the seats makes it that much more sweet."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.