TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are moving on to the American League Championship Series, and they got there by surviving and thriving in a wild seventh inning that first ripped the hearts out of Toronto baseball fans and then had them screaming for joy.
The unforgettable sequence of events ended with the Blue Jays on their way to a 6-3 win in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Rangers, setting them up for Friday's Game 1 of the ALCS in Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX/Sportsnet.
But there were a ton of twists before it was decided, and the seventh inning had it all.
Texas scored one run on a throw back to the pitcher, the Blue Jays scored four unearned runs following three consecutive errors, there were two benches-clearing incidents and one of the biggest home runs ever hit in Toronto franchise history. It was the first time in history that a team committed three errors in one inning of a winner-take-all postseason game.
"I've never seen anything like that whole inning," Blue Jays veteran starter R.A. Dickey said. "Nineteen years of playing, I was talking to the guys on the bench, and even [Mark] Buehrle said [he had] never seen anything like that. That's like 40 years of experience between us. That's something else."
The wackiness began in the top of the frame with Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor on third base and two outs for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Following a pitch during the at-bat, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin casually attempted to toss the ball back to his pitcher, Aaron Sanchez.
But Martin's throw bounced off Choo's hand, which was holding the bat, while Choo was standing in the batter's box. The ball ricocheted down the third-base line, and Odor easily scored the go-ahead run. Odor was initially sent back to third after home-plate umpire Dale Scott called a dead ball, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister asked Scott to convene with the other umpires to discuss the play.
They reversed the decision and allowed Odor's run to count after calling a crew-chief review for a rule check, which cited 6.03(a)(3), determining the ball to be in play.
As members of the crowd delayed the game by throwing items on the field in protest, Toronto seemed to be on its way to a heartbreaking defeat in the worst way possible, and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons initiated an official protest -- which was withdrawn after the victory.
Martin admitted that the right call was made and the rules were clear, but that he felt "karma" was going to work in the Blue Jays' favor.
"Choo didn't do anything wrong, and you think either they're lucky or we're unlucky," Martin said. "It's a situation where you feel [one of] two ways -- you either feel sorry for yourself or you do something about it."
Toronto definitely did something about it, but it wouldn't have been possible without a helping hand from the shaky Rangers infield defense. In the bottom of the seventh, Elvis Andrus made two of the three consecutive errors that loaded the bases with nobody out.
Ben Revere then followed with a grounder to first base, which resulted in a force at home. The Rangers felt a sliding Dalton Pompey interfered with the catcher, but his play was determined to be legal.
Another Rangers mistake soon followed as Odor misread a little blooper off the bat of Josh Donaldson. Instead of a catch that would have kept the runners in place, the ball went over Odor's head and landed as Kevin Pillar scored from third. Texas had to settle for a force at second, and the tying run had scored.
That set the stage for Jose Bautista, and his shot to left field drew memories of Joe Carter's walk-off homer that won the 1993 World Series. According to Statcast™, Bautista's second home run of the postseason was projected to travel 431 feet from home plate and left his bat at 106 mph. Dugouts emptied after he demonstratively flung his bat high in the air.
"This is the toughest time of my career right now," Andrus said of his errors that led to the unearned runs. "I couldn't make plays I've made a hundred times before. I feel like I let down my team, the city. And it hurts."
On the Blue Jays' side, the reaction was totally the opposite.
"We erupted like everybody did," Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "A special moment. Besides Joe Carter's home run, I would say the biggest home run in Blue Jays history."