Jay Blue: Bautista settles game for ages

A Game for the Ages
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Wow. Just wow. Words were failing me after the game ended and the Jays completed an epic comeback to defeat the Texas Rangers and move on to the ALCS. I was watching in a chain sports-bar/restaurant and the place was full, loud and had an atmosphere where strangers were becoming friends with the common bond of their baseball team. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this happen and, frankly, I wasn’t old enough to drink when it last happened.

The bar was a little stunned early as Marcus Stroman gave up an early run on a double and a couple of poorly hit ground balls. I can see now why Stroman had such trouble in his stint as a reliever last season. It looks like he really takes a few innings to settle in and find his rhythm but in both of the games he’s thrown in these playoffs, he’s been firing on all cylinders by the fourth inning after giving up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo in the third yesterday. By the time Edwin Encarnacion rocked the dome with his solo home run to tie the game at two, the bar folks were starting to live and die with the Blue Jays’ fate hanging in the balance.

And then the seventh inning happened. With the Blue Jays’ latest nemesis, Rougned Odor, on third base, Russell Martin’s throw back to Aaron Sanchez hit Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and ricocheted out towards third. Odor saw it immediately and and took off for home while home plate umpire Dale Scott called time and sent him back.

Then, the umps got together and concluded that Scott had erred in his decision and sent Odor home, causing the Rogers Centre to erupt. While the managers and umpires conferred, eventually calling New York, the fans threw all kinds of garbage onto the field and down to the 100 section. Despite the delay required to clean the field up and make it safe for the players (and the fans), the call was not reversed again and the Blue Jays went into bottom of the seventh down 3-2 and playing the game under protest (despite the umpires enforcing the correct ruling).

Either the baseball gods were upset over the cheapness of the Rangers’ run or the Texas club became unhinged after the delays and, of course, the playing of “OK Blue Jays” in the seventh inning stretch. Whatever happened, the Rangers made three errors in a row on what should have been easy outs to start the bottom of the seventh.

Elvis Andrus turned to butterfingers as he dropped a ground ball by Russell Martin, dropped another poor throw from first baseman Mitch Moreland to try to force Martin at second and dropped another throw covering third base with Dalton Pompey on to run for Martin bearing down on him. Three errors in a row. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a team hasn’t made three errors in a single inning in a postseason elimination game.

Then Ben Revere hit a ground ball to Mitch Moreland who made a better throw to catcher Chris Gimenez who Dalton Pompey cleaned out with a slide. While forced out at home, the umpires conferred again, calling New York to check the rule and make sure that no other out could be called on the play. With one out (after the call on the field was upheld) and the bases loaded, Josh Donaldson poked a flare just out of Rougned Odor’s reach at second base to score Pompey to tie the game at three. Ben Revere was forced at second base on the play, mainly because he had to hesitate before running to second to ensure he wasn’t doubled off.

Tie game, two outs and two on in the bottom of the seventh for Jose Bautista who deposited a ball into the left field seats on a 1-and-1 count while making history with the biggest home run for the Blue Jays since Joe Carter in 1993. Toronto literally erupted as Jose flipped his bat, celebrating a three-run lead and just six outs from a series win.

Roberto Osuna got five of those outs after Aaron Sanchez ran into trouble in his second inning of work. Osuna struck out four of the five batters he faced, showing off his wicked slider. And then it was over as the Blue Jays completed a comeback from being down three times in the game and being down two games to none to start the series.

It is easily the best, most exciting and most historic game I’ve watched in 22 years. It’s almost as if the Blue Jays spotted the Rangers two games to give them a sporting chance. I’d rather not see them do that again against the Royals.