TORONTO — Mired in a long skid at the plate, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacionwas due to break out of his slump on Friday night.
His first hit in 20 at-bats gave Toronto a walkoff victory.
Encarnacion worked a full count off reliever Brad Brach before belting a leadoff homer in the 10th inning to give the Blue Jays a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“They had been throwing outside to me all day so I just tried to make an adjustment and it worked,” he said through a translator.
The opposite-field shot gave him 13 homers on the season and made him the eighth player in Blue Jays history with 600 career RBIs.
“He’s a feared guy,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons.
It was Encarnacion’s fifth career walkoff homer and first game-ender of the season. Brach (5-1) suffered his first loss since Sept. 28, 2015, also against Toronto.
“It was a good pitch by a good pitcher and hit by a good hitter, that’s why they call it the big leagues,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
Drew Storen (1-2) worked the top half of the frame for the win. Jesse Chavez and Roberto Osuna also provided shutout relief after starter Marco Estrada’s solid six-inning effort.
The Blue Jays outhit the Orioles 10-4 in front of an announced crowd of 44,439. Encarnacion has driven in 48 runs on the season.
“To go (opposite-field) like that, I mean everybody has seen his power to the pull side, but to be able to just smash one and on a line, it was pretty fun to watch,” Storen said.
Toronto scratched out a run in the first inning and Michael Saunders hit a solo shot in the fourth while Estrada cruised through the first few frames.
The right-hander retired the first 10 batters he faced before issuing a walk to Hyun Soo Kim in the fourth. Baltimore’s first hit came an inning later as Jonathan Schoop hit a solo homer, his ninth blast of the year.
Slugger Chris Davis put Baltimore ahead in the sixth inning with a two-run shot. His 14th homer of the year came after Manny Machado reached on a walk.
The Blue Jays tied the game in the bottom half of the frame. Justin Smoak hit a double and scored on a Russell Martin single.
Estrada had eight strikeouts, allowing four hits, four walks and three earned runs. He has held opponents to five hits or fewer in a franchise record nine consecutive starts (minimum five IP per start).
“I felt really good. I made two mistakes and it cost me,” Estrada said. “These walks, they’re haunting me. I’m walking a lot of people. I was around the zone today and I feel like some pitches could have gone either way and it might have changed the game a little bit.
“But it’s a tough lineup. It’s a really tough lineup.”
Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, meanwhile, allowed eight hits, two earned runs and a pair of walks while striking out four. Baltimore (36-24) is now just one game up on second-place Boston in the American League East standings.
The Red Sox dumped the Minnesota Twins 8-1. Toronto (33-30) is 4 1/2 games behind the Orioles.
“We didn’t do a whole lot other than a couple home runs,” Showalter said. “We’ll sleep fast and do it again tomorrow.”
Notes: Saunders has 10 homers on the season. … The game took two hours 54 minutes to play. … Gibbons said he was hopeful that slugger Jose Bautista would be able to return to the lineup Saturday afternoon. Left-hander J.A. Happ (6-3, 3.57 earned-run average) is scheduled to start against Baltimore right-hander Mike Wright (3-3, 5.14 ERA). … Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, currently on the 15-day disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, took himself out of Friday’s extended spring-training game in Dunedin, Fla. Gibbons said Tulowitzki “just didn’t feel right.” He’s eligible to come off the DL on Sunday but there is no word yet on a return date. … A moment of silence was observed before the game for hockey legend Gordie Howe, who died Friday morning at age 88. … Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The Blue Jays selected pitcher Zach Jackson with their third-round pick (No. 103 overall) as the Major League Baseball draft continued Friday. Toronto made three picks Thursday and used their first-round selection to take right-hander T.J. Zeuch at No. 21. The draft wraps on Saturday.
The Canadian Press via Sportsnet.ca
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