TORONTO — It was an inning that had a little bit of everything — controversy, chaos, drama and plenty of tension.
The benches cleared twice, one player was ejected, fans repeatedly threw debris on the field and Toronto played under protest after a botched throw back to the mound led to a go-ahead run.
When all was said and done, the Texas Rangers’ lead was short-lived thanks to a Jose Bautista three-run homer that sent the edgy Rogers Centre crowd into a state of euphoria. The Blue Jays went on to win the decisive fifth game by a score of 6-3.
Rewind to the top of the seventh inning with Toronto reliever Aaron Sanchez on the hill and the game tied at two. Rougned Odor led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on a groundout.
With Shin-Soo Choo at the plate, Toronto catcher Russell Martin caught a pitch and attempted to throw the ball back to the mound. The ball struck Choo’s bat, who was standing in the batter’s box with his arm extended and bat upright.
When the ball rolled down the third-base line, Odor scampered home to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Home plate umpire and crew chief Dale Scott called time as Odor was running, leading to much confusion.
The Rangers thought the run should count while the Blue Jays seemed bewildered. After talking it over with the other umpires, the run stood — even though Scott initially put his arms up to signal the timeout.
“That was my mistake. I was mixing up two rules and I called time but then it started clicking,” Scott said. “I went, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, there’s no intent on the hitter.’ He’s in the box, the bat’s in the box. So to make sure I’m on the right page, I got everybody together and that’s what we had.
“If there’s no intent, if he’s not out of the box, that throw’s live. And after talking, that runner would have scored. Even if I had not called timeout, he was on his way, so we scored the run.”
Martin, who was charged with a throwing error, said he didn’t think Choo did anything wrong.
“I threw the ball like I always do — I’ve done it probably over a million times — it’s never happened,” he said. “So I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”
Thunderous boos rained down from the raucous sellout crowd at Rogers Centre and some spectators threw garbage on to the field. Players gathered by the infield and some went into the dugout to avoid getting pelted.
Toronto manager John Gibbons argued with Scott and a review was completed. The call stood after a review of over two minutes.
Scott explained afterwards that the review was to look at the rule, not the play.
According to the official rules, if the batter interferes with the catcher’s throw to retire a runner by stepping out of the batter’s box, interference shall be called on the batter under Rule 6.03 (a) (3).
However, 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.
Television replays showed Choo standing still in the box with little, if any, bat movement. Once the wild scene had quieted down, Sanchez struck him out.
The series of events would soon be forgotten as the Blue Jays responded with four runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame, capped by the Bautista homer to deep left field.
The Toronto slugger stood and watched the no-doubter leave the park before punctuating the blast with a rather epic bat flip.
“Relief, man — I don’t even know if that’s the right word,” Martin said. “There’s not many things that feel better than that.”
After Bautista circled the bases, cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion approached the plate and Texas pitcher Sam Dyson walked towards the batter’s box to exchange a few words. That emptied the dugouts and saw more debris thrown on the field.
No punches were thrown and some players visibly urged fans to refrain from throwing trash on the turf. About two dozen police officers ran on to the playing surface and stood guard around the perimeter of the field.
Troy Tulowitzki popped up to end one of the crazier innings in this stadium’s history. Dyson then had some comments for Tulowitzki as the Rangers walked back to their dugout and appeared to tap the Toronto shortstop on the hip.
Tulowitzki had some words for the pitcher and the dugouts cleared again. After some pushing and shoving, both teams returned to their dugouts and play resumed.
Toronto pitcher Mark Buehrle, who was not on the playoff roster, was ejected in the seventh inning. The Blue Jays dropped their protest after the game.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press