The Blue Jays nearly threw away Game 5 of the AL Division Series with a bizarre blunder by catcher Russell Martin before rallying in a nearly hour-long seventh inning.
Fans littered the field with debris during an 18-minute delay after Martin hit Texas batter Shin-Soo Choo with his seemingly simple return throw to the pitcher that resulted in a run for the Rangers after several conferences and an umpire’s review. The Blue Jays even said they were playing the game under protest.
Toronto rallied in the 53-minute seventh for a 6-3 victory to advance to the Championship Series, but not before having to recoup after crazy top half of the inning.
"It was just a shame that might have been the difference in a game of this magnitude," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Thank God it didn’t come down to that."
With Rougned Odor at third base and two outs in the top of the seventh, Martin’s throw back to the mound appeared to hit the hand of batter Shin-Soo Choo, allowing Odor to sprint home as the ball rolled up the third base line for a 3-2 lead.
"I understand the fans are upset," Choo said. "I understand their reaction."
Home plate umpire Dale Scott initially ruled it a dead ball but, after Rangers manager Jeff Banister came out, the umpires huddled and Odor was sent home.
Scott acknowledged making a mistake with his initial ruling.
"I was mixing up two rules," Scott told a pool reporter. "I called time but then it started clicking. I went, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, there’s no intent on the hitter.’ If there’s no intent, if he’s not out of the box, that throw is live."
Scott said the play itself is not reviewable, explaining that the umpires were reviewing the rule, not the play, when they went to the video.
According to rule Major League Baseball rule 6.03(a)(3), the batter is not to be charged with interfering with the catcher if the batter is still in the batter’s box and doesn’t make a movement to block or disrupt the throw.
This type of play is not subject to manager’s review but Scott, the crew chief, after discussing the ruling with Gibbons, called an umpire’s review. After a delay of 2 minutes, 32 seconds, the play stood and fans continued to throw objects on the field.
"I was walking off the field and a tall boy (beer) came right by me," Gibbons said. "I didn’t know if they were (upset) the at the situation or just me personally. Probably both."
Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted, "Don’t hurt each other or our city over this. We can prove ourselves in more ways than one. (hash)ComeTogether"
Things devolved further in the bottom half as the Rangers made three errors to load the bases with none out.
Texas then requested a review on next play, when Ben Revere grounded into a force at home. Dalton Pompey slid hard into catch Chris Gimemez, who was standing on home plate. Umpires upheld the ruling.
But after Sam Dyson replaced Cole Hamels, Josh Donaldson drove in a run on a forceout and Jose Bautista hit a long homer to put Toronto up 6-3.
When on-deck batter Edwin Encarcion turned to the crowd and gestured for them to stop throwing objects on field, Dyson misunderstood Encarnacion’s actions and the players had words, causing the benches to clear.
Twenty police officers lined the outfield and many more were stationed down the lines during the delay.
Benches cleared a second time after Troy Tulowitzki popped out foul to end the inning.
The Toronto Police Service also posted a tweet during the melee. "The actions you take will not affect the outcome of the game, only effect the perception of (hash)Toronto," it read. "Keep classy Toronto."
For what it’s worth, here is the official Major League Baseball rule that pertains to the play: