The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 7-6 in 10 innings on Sunday night to sweep the series and advance to the ALCS.
Another series, another storybook ending for the Toronto Blue Jays. The team has been making a habit of providing Canada and the rest of the baseball world with can-you-believe-it moments, and Sunday night’s extra innings victory was no exception.
The game felt as if it was going to go Toronto’s way before it even started. Aaron Sanchez, the powerful young arm and baseball’s ERA leader, who was coming off bringing a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a (almost) must-win game at Fenway Park. Colby Lewis enjoyed a bounce-back season, but is far from a pitcher anyone would want on the mound with their back against the wall — especially with his 5.81 ERA in six career starts at Rogers Centre.
Anything can happen in baseball, but even as Sanchez stumbled his way through his five and-two-thirds innings and the Rangers held the lead on two occasions, a series sweep was hardly in doubt.
Texas came out strong, manufacturing a Carlos Gomez run in the first inning to give them their first lead of the series and an ounce of momentum. It took about ten minutes for Edwin Encarnacion to add to his growing playoff resume as he stunned no one but the Rangers dugout and took the lead right back. Russell Martin celebrated his Thanksgiving with a slump-busting solo shot of his own just seven pitches later.
Nothing was going to change the outcome of this baseball game.
The Elvis Andrus home run added tension, but not uncertainty — and once again the Jays replied immediately after. Rougned Odor‘s two-run blast off Sanchez was a tough blow, but likely because of who hit it rather than the impact it had on the series. Even when Mitch Moreland drove a two-run double off the glove of a sprawled-out Kevin Pillar and put the Rangers back up in the sixth inning, it was just another hill the Blue Jays would eventually climb.
Both bullpens seemed to be feeding off the importance of every pitch and were able to stymie the bats of both teams. Matt Bush looked like an elite reliever with a nearly untouchable fastball-slider-curveball mix in his first two innings. It didn’t matter, because Roberto Osuna seemed to ignore the overly concerned broadcast crew and prove that he was far from injured, tired, overworked, or “running on fumes”. He pitched two perfect innings, and it set up the latest “Where Were You When?” moment for the Blue Jays.
More from Toronto Blue Jays News
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
The game story wrote itself. When Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista were due up in the bottom of the tenth inning, there was a sense of certainty that Canada was about to witness another unbelievable finish. Right on cue, Donaldson doubled. An intentional walk ensured there would be no more parrot-walking at the Rogers Centre on this night and it left Bautista at the dish with two runners on and a chance to reenact The Bat Flip. But he struck out, and if one were to take the idea of Baseball God’s seriously, they would think it was meant to be that way because of what happened next.
Russell Martin had grounded into 174 double plays in his career. The most anxious moment of the night was that number 175 would happen at the most inopportune time, end the game-winning rally, and give Texas another life. On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, Martin spiked a 98 MPH fastball into the ground at shortstop Elvis Andrus, who fielded it and fired it for the force at second, where Odor received it, transferred it, and sent a routine throw across the diamond for the double play — but it didn’t arrive at first base.
Josh Donaldson’s head-first slide into home provided Blue Jays nation with another euphoric moment on their home turf and sent Toronto to the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive season.
This feeling of knowing things would work out in the Blue Jays favour does not stem from a hope-for-the-best mentality or a lazy, over-confident fan bias. It’s much simpler than that. Those who have watched this Blue Jays team for the past two seasons, since it added Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki to the staples of the franchise in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, know how unstoppable they are when they get on runs like they have been these past six games. The confidence of those mentioned above combined with the self-assurance of young stars like Sanchez, Osuna, and Marcus Stroman is contagious. The arrival of Jason Grilli and return of the even-keel Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ further solidifies that message.
The MLB’s Kings of Fun refuse to shy away from the fist pumps and celebrations that make them so entertaining and successful. The beauty of it is, even after a walk-off home run to win a Wild Card game and a sensational ending to the ALDS, there is still plenty of baseball to be played. No matter what happens going onto the final four, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays and anyone else whose been watching have been treated to the storybook endings that every sports franchise craves.
One chapter closes against the Rangers, and the next will begin on Friday as the Blue Jays are back at it in Game 1 of the ALCS.