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The Morning After: Ten Things I Think About Last Night’s Game

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MLB: AL Wild Card-Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are a mere ~12 hours from Edwin Encarnacion’s game-winning home run. What an amazing game and result for the Jays and their fans (minus one, more on that later). Here are 10 things I think about the wildcard game:

  1. Congratulations to Edwin Encarnacion on etching his own moment in the fabric of Blue Jays history. I’m still surprised that the O’s let you hit in that situation and even more surprised that they let you hit Jimenez. You got your pitch, didn’t miss it and sent millions of Jays fans across the country into a frenzy. In his post-game ‘interview’ in the clubhouse with Barry Davis, Encarnacion said “That’s why I want to stay here [in Toronto]”. To both the Jays and EE’s representatives - let’s make that happen.
  2. I think John Gibbons deserves some credit in this game since naturally he would have been a lightning rod if it didn’t go our way. From starting Stroman to bullpen usage to getting Carrera in the lineup, basically all of his decisions worked out. Now, they worked out because the players did their jobs. I feel that the Manager’s job is to put the players in the best position to succeed and it then falls to the players to execute. Gibby did that yesterday. Showalter didn’t. In addition to not using Britton which has been widely criticized, I was surprised to see Chris Davis hitting 6th and JJ Hardy batting 9th in a winner-take-all format. Gibby takes a lot of flak from us (some deserved, some debatable) but watching that mess from Showalter definitely made me think the grass isn’t always greener.
  3. Devon Travis, who might have set a suckage award record for negative WPA if the Jays ended up losing yesterday, made one of the most important plays in the game. After singling with one-out in the 11th, Travis moved from first to third when Nolan Reimold momentarily bobbled the ball in left field. On the replay, it appeared Devon was going to stay at second until Reimold dropped the ball so just a great heads-up play. First and third with one-out is just so different from first and second with one-out. Ultimately it didn’t matter with Edwin crushing that ball but at the time it was a huge play. Devon also made some great plays in the field including a very nice putout of Kim in the top of the first. His defense has been a bit leaky lately so great to see some nice plays from him.
  4. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have made some very good, if unspectacular, moves over the past year which paid dividends yesterday. They did a great job in building some starting pitching depth which enabled us to debate whether Stroman or Liriano should start. It’s actually pretty incredible that we could pretty easily make a case for our 4th and 5th starting pitchers (maybe even 6th) to start such an important game. Bringing in J.A. Happ, bringing back Marco Estrada and trading for Francisco Liriano made that possible. Rule-5 pickup Joe Biagini closed out the 7th inning. Jason Grilli pitched a perfect 8th inning. Liriano mowed the O’s down for 1.2 innings giving his team a chance to win it in the bottom of the 11th. Earlier this year I used the analogy of Shapiro/Atkins being slap hitters as opposed to AA who was a swing for the fences type. Yesterday, directly or indirectly, many of the uninspiring moves made by Jays’ management played a significant part in the outcome.
  5. That is the role I want to see Justin Smoak in. In the game comments section, the_tbj_fan described Smoak as a ‘three true outcomes’ type of guy. Either K, BB, or HR. Even though it obviously didn’t work yesterday, I have no problem with him in a pinch-hit situation with a chance to win the game with a long-ball.
  6. Thank you Marcus Stroman for a fantastic start. I do think in sports there are guys that embrace the moment more than others. Stroman is a guy that wants the ball on the biggest of stages and has shown to rise to the occasion. Between what we’ve seen in this and last year’s playoffs and how he came back from the knee injury yesterday, I’d like to see the team ensure he is locked up for the long-term. Also, thank you Francisco Liriano for proving that starting either of you would have been a good decision. He came in, worked quickly and threw strikes. Maybe it was because of eelliott29’s article and all those arguments in favor of Liriano, but he gave me such a sense of confidence out there.
  7. I’m worried about Roberto Osuna. I know he said he was fine after the game (what else would he really say there?), but the entire exchange with Encarnacion coming in and waving to the dugout felt weird. Osuna seemed to grimace a few pitches before Edwin came to him. I also found the decisiveness in Gibby to go to the pen and the fact that Osuna didn’t attempt to throw a pitch or two to see how he felt strange. I hope he’s okay and as suggested it is just fatigue as we really need him.
  8. I think the wildcard format as a one-game winner-take-all really worked to the disadvantage of this Jays team. Despite having some of the strongest starting pitching depth in baseball (maybe the strongest), the Jays aren’t built to be top heavy in the rotation. In addition to having an ace pitcher, in a one-game playoff I think there is a premium on defense and bullpen, both of which have been shaky for the Jays in September. Now that we are through the wildcard game, the Jays have to be one of the most feared teams left in the playoffs. I’d argue that we collectively have the best starting pitching and probably the second/third best offense (Boston, Chicago) which hopefully parlays into a deep playoff run.
  9. This is the series we all want to see. Despite Jose Bautista’s comments about the irrelevance of who the Jays play next I believe that the team is thrilled to be playing the Rangers. It’s crazy how quickly things between teams and cities can form as Texas-Toronto is definitely among the most heated rivalries in MLB. The best revenge for the Jays will be to send the Rangers packing for the second straight year and I think the team will be focused on that as opposed to any shenanigans but it will be interesting TV is any of the games are one-sided late.
  10. To the ‘fan’ that threw the can at Kim: You are a disgrace. There are two highlights from last night’s game that will be replayed over and over again – the game winning home run from Edwin and your completely reprehensible act. With Toronto back on the national stage in US and Canada, you’ve enabled the talking heads to run with a narrative of negativity about Toronto’s fans which carries back to the debacle in the top of the 7th inning of game 5 of the ALDS last year. Just a completely classless act that provides an excuse for others to unfairly paint the city of Toronto and its fans with a wide brush. Just deplorable.