How the Toronto Blue Jays Won the Craziest Game You'll Ever See

It was an instant classic that allowed the Blue Jays to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 1993.

How do you describe the indescribable? How do you put into words that which makes you speechless?

How does a person adequately recap what happened in Game 5 of Toronto's unbelievable, had-to-see-it-to-believe-it, series-clinching 6-3 win over the Texas Rangers? 

How do you describe something that looked like this?

It was a crazy Canadian afternoon, and the city of Toronto may never be the same again.

The Pitcher's Duel

The game was advertised as a pitcher's duel, with Texas turning to their ace Cole Hamels to do what he does: close out a series. During his long playoff history with Philadelphia, Hamels had never pitched in a do-or-die elimination game but had pitched in four games in which his team had a chance to clinch and move onto the next round.

Each and every time, Hamels pitched his team to victory. He had a 2.05 ERA in those four games: Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, Game 5 of the 2009 NLCS and Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS. 

He was opposed by the youngster making just his sixth start of the season coming off the disabled list, Marcus Stroman, picked by his manager John Gibbons over the former Cy Young Award winner David Price, who threw more than 50 pitches in Game 4 and was unavailable either to start or pitch out of the bullpen in Game 5.

Both pitchers were terrific. Stroman fell behind 2-0 after giving up single runs in the first and third innings but was dominant in his six innings of work, allowing six hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Gibbons' decision to start Stroman over Price proved to be just fine. Plus, he got some help from his defense.

Hamels, meanwhile, lived up to the hype. Although he couldn't hold the 2-0 lead, eventually giving up a run in the third and then a homer to Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth to tie the score, he did go 6 1/3 innings and gave up 5 runs with just 2 earned (more on that in a minute), 8 strikeouts and 2 walks.

He was vintage Playoffs Cole Hamels.

The Magnificent 7th: The Top Half

And so began 53 minutes of sheer lunacy.

It all started innocently enough. The score was tied 2-2 and, according to Fangraphs' Win Expectancy, both teams had a 50/50 chance of winning the game. Rougned Odor led off with a single and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. He then moved to third on a ground out. 

That's when things went haywire.

During Shin-Soo Choo's at bat, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin attempted to throw a ball back to the pitcher Aaron Sanchez. But in an odd, freaky twist of fate, Martin's throw hit Choo's bat and ricocheted off to the direction of third. Odor raced home and it the Rangers took a 3-2 lead on one of the most bizarre plays you will ever see.

The Jays were livid and argued that the ball should have been dead. In fact, it did appear as if the home plate umpire waved his hands to call time as Odor was about three-quarters of the way down the third base line. But after a heated discussion between Gibbons and the umpires, and after fans started throwing beer and bottles onto the field, and after a lengthy review in New York, the call stood.

Rule 6.03 (a) (3) states:

"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... However, if the batter is standing in the batter's box (which Choo was) and he or his bat is struck 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 was a heartbreaking play, one that you would hate to see a team have its season end on. It was a sloppy play by Martin but called correctly by the umpires. Yet, the Blue Jays announced they were playing the game under protest. 

My guess is, by the end of the inning, they would rescind that protest.

The Magnificent 7th - The Bottom Half

By this point, what had been a 50/50 proposition had now swung drastically in favor of the Rangers, now at 64.2% to win the game and the series. And the worry was that, after the unfortunate incident just a few moments before, the Blue Jays would become unglued and let the game get away.

Instead, it was the Rangers who completely fell apart, specifically Elvis Andrus, who had already been thrown out trying to steal third with two outs earlier in the game and was 0-for-3 at the plate up to that point. Hamels, still in the game, allowed a routine grounder by Martin to Andrus at shortstop that was booted for an error. The Blue Jays' Win Expectancy jumped from 35.8% to 43.5%. Then, Hamels allowed another routine grounder to Mitch Moreland at first, but his throw was low to second, with Andrus failing to make the scoop. A second straight Texas error, on Moreland, put runners on 1st and 2nd with no out, and Toronto's win expectancy jumped from 43.5 to 54.7%. 

Ryan Goins then tried to bunt the runners over, but hit it too hard to Adrian Beltre, who threw to Andrus covering third for the force out. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Andrus inexplicably dropped the ball. Bases loaded, nobody out on three straight errors. Toronto's Win Expectancy has jumped from 54.7% to 68.7%.

Yet somehow, Hamels stays with it enough to get Ben Revere to hit a chopper to Moreland, who throws home for the force out, keeping the score 3-2 Rangers with the bases still loaded and one out. Hamels was removed from the game, and in came Sam Dyson, who got Josh Donaldson to hit a humpback liner to Odor that should have been caught for the second out. But somehow, it crossed him up and landed just beyond his reach, allowing the tying run to score, although the runner was thrown out at second base after freezing, thinking Odor would catch the ball.

With the game tied once again, the Blue Jays Win Expectancy went from 55.9 to 58.8%, still a toss-up for the most part. Then, the great Jose Bautista did this.

That wasn't a bat flip. That was a bat grenade toss. Bautista's three-run home run set off an explosion inside the Rogers Center, putting Toronto on top 6-3, pushing the Win Expectancy from 58.8% all the way to 93.5%, the biggest swing in the game.

How unlikely was the Texas meltdown?

Game, set, match.


After their epic seventh inning collapse, there was no uprising from the Rangers in the eighth or ninth innings, and so, without much fanfare, they went went down relatively easily, allowing the Blue Jays to advance to their first League Championship Series in 22 years.

And on the other side, a long winter begins for Texas.

And now, with the Royals' victory over the Houston Astros in Game 5 of their ALDS, Kansas City and Toronto will square off in a rematch of the 1985 American League Championship Series, 30 years later.

All thanks to one of the craziest, wildest, most ridiculous games in baseball postseason history.