Edwin Encarnacion sends Blue Jays to the ALDS with a walk-off homer in the 11th inning

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The question that is on everybody’s mind as the Blue Jays walked off 5-2 winners in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game against the Orioles: Where was Zach Britton? The best reliever in baseball was noticeably absent in the ninth inning, the 10th inning, and the 11th and final inning.

After Brad Brach and Darren O'Day slithered out of danger in the 10th inning, O’s manager Buck Showalter sent lefty Brian Duensing to the mound to start the bottom of the 11th inning. Duensing struck out Ezequiel Carrera, then was replaced by Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez had some good starts down the stretch, but he’s a starter by trade, not a reliever. And he’s not Britton. Somewhat predictably, the Jays rallied, putting runners on first and third base thanks to consecutive singles by Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, bringing Edwin Encarnacion to the plate. Still, no Britton. Encarnacion swung at a first-pitch fastball from Jimenez and absolutely obliterated it to send the Blue Jays to the ALDS with a 5-2 win.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman‘s velocity was noticeably down, sitting in the high 80’s and only occasionally getting above 90 MPH. Still, the Blue Jays only managed two runs in his 4 1/3 innings. The first run came on a Jose Bautista solo homer in the second inning and the Jays tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning on an Ezequiel Carrera RBI single to center field. Tillman finished having allowed the two runs on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts on 74 pitches.

Jays starter Stroman didn’t appear to have the best command but he didn’t walk any batters and yielded his two runs on a two-run home run to Mark Trumbo in the fourth inning. It was a home run that registered as Trumbo’s weakest homer in the Statcast era. Stroman left after six innings, yielding the two runs on six hits with six strikeouts on 81 pitches.

From there, it was a battle of the bullpens. The Jays’ bullpen tossed five hitless innings, yielding only one walk while striking out six. The O’s bullpen was nearly as good until Jimenez came into the game, pitching 5 2/3 innings, allowing only three base runners, including one on an intentional walk, while striking out seven.

Encarnacion’s home run will be replayed for years to come, but reporters are scrambling to find out why Britton never made an appearance. There is, perhaps, a possibility he hurt himself warming up in the eighth inning. We’ll pass along any information that comes out of Toronto.

The Jays will open up the ALDS in Texas to face the Rangers. Game 1 starts at 4:30 PM EDT on Thursday, October 6.

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

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TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”