TORONTO — Zach Britton was perfect for Baltimore at all the right times during the regular season.
For manager Buck Showalter, the right time never came Tuesday night.
Showalter left Britton in the bullpen while Ubaldo Jimenez allowed Edwin Encarnacion’s game-ending home run in the 11th inning, and the Orioles’ season ended with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL wild-card game.
Britton converted all 47 of his save chances during the regular season, but the All-Star closer wasn’t among the seven pitchers Baltimore used in the winner-take-all game.
“(Britton) was fine,” Showalter said, adding that “I considered a lot of things during the course of the game, but our guys did a good job getting us to that point. We just couldn’t finish it off. Yeah, he was available.”
Showalter used setup men Brad Brach and Darren O’Day to navigate the top of Toronto’s order over the eighth and ninth innings and let O’Day work the 10th.
Left-hander Brian Duensing relieved O’Day to begin the 11th and struck out lefty Ezequiel Carrera looking. Then entered Jimenez, who had a 5.44 ERA during the regular season.
Jimenez allowed three hits on three pitches, the last Encarnacion’s homer on a 91 mph fastball.
Baltimore had 10 pitchers available for the wild-card game, leaving only Britton, Tommy Hunter and starter Dylan Bundy unused.
Britton warmed up three times.
“It’s frustrating but it’s not my call,” Britton said. “It was just frustrating to have to sit there and watch.”
Showalter has said he’d vote Britton for the AL Cy Young Award if he could, and now faces a long winter having left his bullpen ace on the bench.
Jimenez entered with one out and allowed consecutive singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, with Travis reaching third when left fielder Nolan Reimold bobbled Donaldson’s bouncing hit. With the infield in, Encarnacion sent the following pitch into the second deck in left field. Encarnacion immediately knew it was gone and raised both arms in triumph, index fingers pointed skyward.
“I was looking for a fastball and I was trying to put the barrel on it, get a little bit in front because the infield was playing in, and I actually got it,” Encarnacion said through a translator.
Showalter pointed to Jimenez’s second-half resurgence in defending the decision — Jimenez was 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his final seven starts.
“Nobody has been pitching better for us than Ubaldo,” Showalter said. “So there’s a lot of different ways to look at it, so that’s the way we went. It didn’t work out.”
Nonetheless, the internet was ruthless to Showalter after, and during, the game.
For a local connection, there were immediate call-backs to former Nationals manager Matt Williams, who was frequently criticized for refusing to break from baseball tradition and use his best pitchers in critical situations.
Gibbons wasn’t surprised to see Showalter hold back his closer on the road.
“I never question what anyone else does because you’ve got to make tough decisions,” Gibbons said. “You know what, most people don’t ever agree with your decisions regardless.”
Toronto’s Francisco Liriano retired five straight batters on four groundouts and a strikeout for the win after closer Roberto Osuna left with a sore shoulder.
The roof was open at Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, where all 24 previous postseason games had been played with it closed.
Toronto opens the Division Series at Texas on Thursday.
Jose Bautista led off the second against Chris Tillman with his fifth postseason homer. Mark Trumbo, who led the major leagues with 47 home runs, gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer off Marcus Stroman.
Ezequiel Carrera’s RBI single chased Tillman in the fifth.
“PATHETIC AS IT GETS”
When Toronto pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr. flied out to the warning track in left field to end the seventh, Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim was nearly struck by a can that was thrown from the stands. Center fielder Adam Jones angrily gestured toward the seats, and Showalter came out to register his displeasure with the umpires.
“It’s tough when you have that many people in the ballpark and one person does something that reflects poorly on all of them,” Showalter said. “It can happen in any ballpark. I don’t like anything that puts our guys in harm’s way.”
Jones wasn’t as diplomatic as his manager.
“That is about as pathetic as it gets,” Jones said. ” I hope they find the guy and press charges.”
Blue Jays spokesman Erik Grosman said the fan was not ejected because he took off before police had a chance to get him. Police are investigating.
Blue Jays fans tossed bottles and debris on the field during Game 5 against Texas last year, upset at the call that let Rougned Odor score from third after catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound deflected off Shin Soo Choo’s bat.
Baltimore was held hitless after Manny Machado’s infield single in the sixth.
This was the second extra-inning wild card game. Kansas City rallied to beat Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in 2014.
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