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Beleaguered Blue Jays bullpen comes up big

The Blue Jays' final reliever, Francisco Liriano, fared better than the Orioles' final one did. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen had a 4.11 ERA during the regular season, but on Tuesday, the Blue Jays' relievers were almost perfect. Five relievers combined for five hitless innings, with six strikeouts and one walk, retiring the last 14 Orioles hitters.

It's the second time in postseason history that a team's bullpen pitched at least five hitless innings. The other instance was when the 2012 Giants did so in a loss to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS.

Each of the relievers that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons turned to after Brett Cecil walked Chris Davis carried some risk. The Orioles seemed to have the edge in the battle of the bullpens, considering season-long performance, recent history and whom the likely choices were at game's end (though Orioles closer Zach Britton went unused).

After pulling Cecil, who had 17 strikeouts and one run allowed in his past 10⅓ innings, Gibbons put his trust in Joe Biagini, a Rule V draft pick who had a 6.94 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 11 appearances in September and October. Biagini rewarded Gibbons with a pair of strikeouts to end the sixth inning. Next up was Jason Grilli, who had allowed six runs, including three home runs in his past three appearances. Grilli got through the inning unscathed. Grilli's spot normally would have gone to Joaquin Benoit, who had an 0.38 ERA in 25 appearances before tearing a calf muscle on Sep. 25.

Gibbons' next option was his closer, Roberto Osuna, who had allowed six runs in 9⅔ innings in his past eight appearances and who had blown three of his past four save chances. Osuna got four outs in the ninth and 10th before leaving with an injury.

The final reliever was Francisco Liriano, the one pitcher that Gibbons used among the last four who was entering on a hot streak. Liriano had thrown 12⅓ scoreless innings in his past two games, but there was some risk with him, too. On Sept. 2, in one of his two relief appearances with the Blue Jays, he allowed three runs without retiring a batter.

Liriano got five outs in the 10th and 11th inning without issue, and eventually the Blue Jays won the war of attrition when Edwin Encarnacion homered in the bottom of the 11th.