TORONTO -- Once the euphoria started to settle down, once of the historic nature of Edwin Encarnacion's walkoff home run began to settle in and once the scramble was on for the Toronto Blue Jays to get to Texas, there was one nagging question lingering about Tuesday night's classic American League Wild Card Game:
Did Baltimore manager Buck Showalter really lose the ultimate game of the season without using lights-out closer Zach Britton at all?
Believe it or not -- and pretty much nobody in Rogers Centre could -- that's exactly what happened.
Britton had one of the best seasons in history for a closer with 47 saves in 47 chances and a 0.54 ERA that included one run against him since May 1. One! And Showalter never used him, ostensibly because the score was tied and there was no save situation in the offing.
It's one of the most bizarre decisions in recent baseball history. To a lot of owners and general managers and probably tons of Orioles fans, it could be considered a fireable offense.
“I figured he would wait, maybe eighth or ninth if we were ahead, I would be in the game,” a confused Britton told reporters in a somber Baltimore clubhouse. “Once the score was tied, I felt like when there was an opportunity for me in the game, I was gonna get in the game. Whether that was a lead or not, I wasn’t sure. It was just frustrating having to sit down there and watch, and not be able to help the team.”
Britton had to be hurt, right? He got up three times in the bullpen and couldn't get loose, so that was going to be the explanation? Nope. He said he was fine and so did Showalter.
First and second for the Blue Jays in the ninth with Jose Bautista coming up and Showalter stuck with Brad Brach before going to Darren O'Day. And he got out of the inning on a double play. Probably didn't deserve to.
There was no escape in the 11th with runners at the corners and Encarnacion coming to the plate. And no Britton either. Like several other times. Ubaldo Jimenez was on and served up a meatball that Encarnacion drove to the 200 level. Three pitches, three hits and the Baltimore season was over.
"Sure it crosses your mind from the sixth inning on," Showalter meekly explained. "So there's a bunch of decisions to make there during the course of the game. Our pitchers pitched real well the whole game to hold that club to two runs at that point. You could make a case, probably other than Zach, that Ubaldo is pitching better than anybody we've had for the last six or seven starts. There are a lot of tough decisions but we're maybe a little different if you're playing at home."
It boggles the mind. The Orioles are home for the winter because Showalter forgot about his closer at the season's most important time. I've never seen anything like it.