A postseason baseball game in which the benches clear on multiple occasions is pretty interesting — the kind of thing that gets some extra attention on nightly highlight shows. The same could be said for a game that was played under protest, after an obscure rule came into play. Same goes for an oddity like a team making an error on three consecutive plays. And for a game that included a dramatic, late-inning homer in front of fans hungry for a postseason series victory. But cram all that and more into one long string of chaotic events, as the Blue Jays and Rangers did in the seventh inning of the winner-take-all fifth game of the ALDS on Wednesday night, and you’ve got the wildest inning you’ll ever see.
The madness didn’t even really begin until there were two outs in the top of the seventh. Here’s how it went down:
• With a runner on third, Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez threw a ball to Shin-Soo Choo to even the count at two and two. Catcher Russell Martin went to throw the ball back to Sanchez, but his throw to the mound hit Choo’s bat (or perhaps Choo’s hand holding the bat) and caromed towards third base. The runner on third sprinted for home, and before he touched the plate, the home-plate umpire threw his hands up to indicate a dead ball.
• Texas manager Jeff Banister came out to speak with the umps, who huddled and ruled that it was incidental contact, and allowed the run to count. Indeed, though the umpire initially ruled it a dead ball, the MLB rule book states in part that “if the batter is standing in the batter’s box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher’s throw back to the pitcher (or throw in attempting to retire a runner) and, in the umpire’s judgment, there is no intent on the part of the batter to interfere with the throw, the ball is alive and in play.” Choo had his arm extended, but didn’t appear to intentionally interfere with the ball.
• As Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to complain about that reversal, fans in Toronto began throwing trash on the field.
• Meanwhile, Blue Jays players yelled at the umps from the dugout, and pitcher Brett Cecil was ejected.
• Amidst the confusion, crew chief Dale Scott put on headphones to talk to replay officials in New York, and when he was finished, the run still counted, officially making the score 3-2 Rangers. At this point, the Blue Jays informed the umps that they’d be playing the game under protest.
• Fans continued to throw trash onto the field, as Blue Jays players pleaded with the crowd to stop. One fan in the upper deck allegedly threw a beer can that sprayed a baby in the front row. (The fan was arrested.)
• Two pitches later, Sanchez struck out Choo to end the top half of the inning.
• Martin led off the bottom half of the inning by hitting a grounder to short, but Elvis Andrus misplayed it, and Martin reached on the error.
• The next batter, Kevin Pillar, hit a grounder to first. First baseman Mitch Moreland threw to second to try and get the lead runner, but his throw was in the dirt and Andrus couldn’t handle it. Everyone was safe on the Rangers’ second error in a row.
• The next batter, Ryan Goins, laid down a bunt, and Texas appeared to defend it properly. Third baseman Adrián Beltré fielded it with enough time to get the lead runner at third; he made an accurate throw, but Andrus simply dropped the throw. It was Texas’s third error in as many Toronto plate appearances.
• Next up was Ben Revere, who hit a grounder to first. The throw came home and pinch runner Dalton Pompey’s slide kicked out the leg of Texas catcher Chris Gimenez. Banister came out to argue that because of rules in place to protect the catcher, the Rangers should be awarded a double play. The umps again went to review, but no additional out was awarded.
• With the bases still loaded and one out, Josh Donaldson blooped a single over the reach of Rougned Odor, scoring a run and tying the game at three. The Rangers got the force at second for the second out.
• With runners on the corners and the count at one and one, José Bautista hit a long home run off the facing of the second deck in left-center, sending the Rogers Centre crowd into a frenzy and giving the Jays a 6-3 lead.
• After launching the ball, Bautista stood and admired the biggest homer of his career for a beat, then executed a bat flip for the ages:
• Before play resumed, Edwin Encarnación stood near home plate motioning toward the crowd to stop throwing trash on the field, and he and Texas pitcher Sam Dyson had words near home plate. The benches cleared, and Bautista was especially animated, though things didn’t escalate into a full-on fight.
• After a pair of Jays hits, Troy Tulowitzki fouled out to the catcher for the third out. Dyson, the pitcher, walked past the batter’s box and gave Tulowitzki a tap on the rear end, and the Toronto shortstop took exception. The benches cleared again, but again, it didn’t devolve into an actual melee.
The inning would end with Toronto up 6-3, and they’d hang on to win by that score. They’ll play Kansas City in the ALCS.