A famous baseball icon once intoned, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over,” and that phrase certainly fits the 2011 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays to the letter.
The American League club ended the home portion of its regular-season schedule Thursday night at Rogers Centre when Edwin Encarnacion knocked a walk-off home run in the 12th inning.
The win lifted the Blue Jays to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
The victory also lifted Toronto to a perfect 11-0 at home in extra innings, becoming the first team since 1920, when that statistic first started being recorded, to win at least 10 extra-inning games at home and not lose.
“We feel comfortable in extra innings, I think that’s fair to say,” John Farrell, an exuberant Blue Jays manager, said afterward.
Encarnacion stroked the game winner off reliever Garrett Richards, the seventh L.A. pitcher to take the mound in the game.
The ball sailed over the wall in left field and, as per custom, Encarnacion had to fight his way past a scrum of his already celebrating teammates as he made his way home and make sure he touched the plate to make the victory official.
Farrell said the extra-innings win is indicative of the how the Blue Jays have played all season.
“They don’t stop, they don’t cash it in, they don’t quit at any point in the game,” he said. “They continue to believe in themselves.”
It was a supportive crowd numbering 22,769 for the home finale and they were rewarded with a tense battle between a Toronto team destined for another fourth-place finish and an Angels squad still battling for their playoff lives.
When team star Jose Bautista came to the plate in both the bottom of the ninth and again in the bottom of the 11th with an opportunity to win the game, the crowd stood and started chanting “MVP” to try and spur him on.
The Major League’s home run leader with 42 could not come through, first singling and then popping out in his final at-bat, but it was still an unforgettable moment.
Overall Bautista had a productive night in six plate appearance, getting on base five times with three hits and two walks.
“In our minds he is the MVP as well,” Farrell said. “You can’t say enough for the attention that he’s drawn and deservedly earned and it was great to see that fan support for him.”