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Mitch's Sports Report: Baseball's Best Closer Watches From Bullpen As Blue Jays Walk Off With Win

Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Brian Duensing and Ubaldo Jimenez. What do those six names have in common? They are all relief pitchers for the Baltimore Orioles, and they all were called to duty last night in relief of Baltimore starter Chris Tillman in the one-game playoff with Blue Jays in Toronto.

Each of those six were asked by Orioles manager Buck Showalter to preserve a 2-2 tie in a game that went into the eleventh inning at the Rogers Centre last night. Another thing those names have in common, is that none of the are Zach Britton, the Orioles closer, who follows the aggressive advice of the Alec Baldwin character in "Glengarry Glenross" to always be closing. He was the undisputed best relief pitcher in baseball this year. Given 47 save chances this season, Britton converted every one, and may very well win the Cy Young award as a result.

So it is a question Orioles fans will be asking this morning, why baseball's best closer never threw a single pitch in a winner-take-all game that the Blue Jays won when Edward Encarnacion hit a 3-run, walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th off Ubaldo Jimenez, giving Toronto a 5-2 win and a date with the Texas Rangers in one of two American League divisional series, while baltimore has all winter to crack crab legs and think of what might have been.

I am no fan of bringing in closers to tie games, but in a one-game playoff, when Jimenez has started the inning by allowing singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson and there are runners at the corners, with just one run separating your team from playoff survival and post-season elimination, you have to go get your best and give him the job of working out of the jam. Showalter didn't do it, and one pitch by Jimenez later, the Rogers Centre exploded with the flight of Encarnacion's immediate off-the-bat no doubt home run while Britton stood helplessly in the Orioles bullpen, wondering why he never got the chance to nullify the threat. There were no health issues. He was ready to go. And he said after the game he was disappointed that he wasn't called on, but that it's not his decision to make. That Showalter's, and the Orioles manager will have to own that decision for as long as he remains calling the shots for the Birds.

As for those other birds, the Blue Jays now get to mess with Texas, and these are two teams that don't care for each other one bit. Earlier this season a bench clearing brawl was ignited when Toronto slugger Joe Bautista got drilled by a pitch, then on a ground ball by the next batter went hard into second base, trying to take out Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, and the two of them got into it, with Odor clocking Bautista in the face with a right cross. There's little chance of similar fisticuffs in a playoff series, with neither side wanting their players facing a possible suspension, but there will be an undercurrent of extra tension to this series, which should be a good one, opening in Arlington, Texas Thursday night.

Tonight in New York, if you like good pitching match-ups, you'll want to check out the wild card one game playoff featuring Noah Syndegaard of the NY Mets against San Francisco ace lefty Madison Bumgarner. The Mets have been bucking the odds all season, staying in it despite myriad injuries to key players and it feels like the momentum is with them for this game, especially at home, but I'm picking the Giants, only because Bumgarner is just that good, and if San Fran can get an early lead I can see him going the full nine to eke out a win.

Locally in mens' college soccer the Middlebry Panthers buried Plymnouth State 6-0 yesterday to remain undefeated on the season at 6-0-2. It was still a game at the start of the second half with the Panthers leading 1-Nil on a goal by Kirk Horton butthe visitors broke it open with 5 second half goals, two of them by Greg Conrad in the rout.

In womens' college soccer the St. Michael's Purple Knights scored a big overtime win when senior Michaela Horne put home the game-winner two and a half minutes into the OT in a 1-0 win against American International yesterday. It was just the second win of the year for St. Mike's and it came against the Northeast-10 conference leader and regionally ranked A-I team.

The Middlebury women were also winners, shutting out St. Lawrence 3-0, their fourth consecutive shut out victory. The Panthers did all their scoring in the fist half on goals by Adrianna Gildner, Emma Shumway, and Amanda Dafonte.

In college field hockey Middlebury defeated St. Lawrence 7-1 and the University of Vermont women's ice hockey team opened their season on the right skate, beating Union last night 5-1.
 

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station WBUR...as a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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