Martin's toss back to mound strikes Choo's hand, allowing Odor to score from third
By Jason Beck
TORONTO -- In the end, the craziest part of a crazy seventh inning at Rogers Centre on Wednesday had little impact on the final outcome of the Blue Jays' 6-3 win over the Rangers in Game 5 of their American League Division Series. But a series that had seen all sorts of drama reached a new level, with what is normally one of the simplest actions in the game.
When catcher Russell Martin's return throw to reliever Aaron Sanchez caromed off Shin-Soo Choo's hand as Choo was holding his bat and rolled down the third-base line, sending Rougned Odor home from third base for a 3-2 Rangers lead, the deciding game took a turn into the bizarre -- and, eventually, the complex.
At first, it appeared to be no play, and as such, plate umpire Dale Scott called timeout as Odor was halfway home. But Odor kept going, and Texas manager Jeff Banister emerged from the dugout to make his case.
"I've been involved in that play before. I've done that play before," said Banister, a former Minor League catcher. "I've done that exact play as a catcher where I've actually thrown it off of the hitter's hand/bat before, so I was aware of the rule."
He seemed to be one of the few who was immediately aware of it.
"The ball hit my hands, and I didn't know what was going on," Choo said. "Personally, I didn't know the rule. That's why I asked."
Banister made his point to Scott, who also served as the crew chief. After a lengthy discussion with Banister and a conference with the rest of the umpiring crew, Odor was awarded the run, giving Texas the lead.
Since Choo was in the batter's box when the throw hit his bat, he was ruled not to have interfered.
"That was my mistake," Scott said. "I was mixing up two rules and I called time, but then it started clicking. 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."
The rule in question, 6.03(a)(3), primarily addresses throws from the catcher to try to retire a baserunner, but also applies to throws back to the pitcher.
The umpires manual states that if the batter is standing in the batter's box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher's throw to the pitcher -- 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.
"It's still a live baseball. That's the rule," Banister said. "So how about my guy being heads-up and scoring on that play and not keeping his head down? Because that's who we are."
Thus, the run counted.
"I really didn't see [Choo's] hand out there," said Martin, who was charged with an error. "I don't really know what the rule is. He was in the box."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to play the rest of the game under protest. The umpires on the field called for a crew-chief review to check the rules prior to accepting the protest, which the Blue Jays dropped after the game.
"Really, it came down to the rules are what they are, and I'm still a bit in the fog about it," Gibbons said. "But you didn't want something like that to be the deciding run in a game of this magnitude, so that was kind of my beef. But the umpire crew did a great job. They really did."
The Jays went on to tie the score in the bottom half of the inning, going ahead on a three-run homer by Jose Bautista. Few could have been happier than Martin.
"I mean, it's just one of those moments," Martin said, "and it created an opportunity for us to do something special."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.