TORONTO — The Milwaukee Brewers could have intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game.
Instead they decided to pitch to the Toronto slugger, and he ended the game in walk-off fashion.
Encarnacion turned on a 3-1 slider from Brandon Kintzler for a no-doubt three-run shot that gave the Blue Jays a 7-4 win over the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon.
“He hanged (it), I banged it,” Encarnacion said.
The win gave Toronto (47-39) a two-game mini-sweep of Milwaukee (51-35) and extended the Blue Jays’ lead atop the American League East to 1 1/2 games over Baltimore. The Orioles were scheduled to play the Texas Rangers later Wednesday.
Encarnacion, who’s now tied for the major-league lead with 26 homers, raised his arms in the air after finishing his swing. He dropped the bat, clapped his hands a few times and began to trot around the bases as the 24,286 fans at Rogers Centre roared in approval.
“For me it’s the best moment you can have,” Encarnacion said.
“For any player to have a walk-off home run. So everybody (is) happy on the team and we’re going to fly a five-hour happy flight today.”
The Blue Jays will kick off a 10-game road trip Thursday at Oakland.
Jose Reyes led off the ninth with a double and Melky Cabrera was intentionally walked. Anthony Gose tried to move both runners into scoring position, but Reyes was thrown out at third after the sacrifice bunt attempt.
Darin Mastroianni struck out before Encarnacion hit his third career walkoff homer.
“I should have just bounced a sinker and walked him or thrown the slider away off the plate,” Kintzler said. “It definitely didn’t go where I planned it.”
Jose Bautista and Juan Francisco also homered for Toronto. Casey Janssen (3-0) worked one inning of relief for the win, and reliever Will Smith (1-1) shouldered the loss.
“A good win for the guys,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “They finished a tough homestand with a good win.”
Both teams scored in the opening frame. Jonathan Lucroy hit a two-out double off Toronto starter J.A. Happ and scored when cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez hit a bloop single that dropped in right field.
Bautista answered in the bottom half by hitting a solo shot in his first at-bat for the second straight day. He took a 3-1 pitch from starter Wily Peralta over the wall in left-centre field for his 17th homer of the year.
The Brewers scored three times in the third inning but Happ settled down after that, recording 13 outs in a row before catcher Martin Maldonado’s bunt single in the seventh inning.
“I tried to get back down and focus and try to cover some innings and let our offence grind it out, and that’s what we did,” Happ said.
The Blue Jays tied the game with Francisco’s two-run shot in the fourth, his 13th homer of the season.
Toronto put baserunners on in the seventh but Mastroianni failed to advance the lead runner with a sacrifice bunt attempt.
Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke was ejected in the top of the eighth and Gibbons was tossed in the bottom half after a safe call was overturned at second base.
Gibbons admitted he was frustrated and perhaps a little on edge after a long homestand with a lot of day games.
“Maybe I got tired of looking at bunts not getting put down,” he said with a smile. “So I said, ’I’ll go have a beer.”’
It was Roenicke’s first ejection of the season and the second for Gibbons.