Josh Donaldson’s mad dash moved the Blue Jays into the next round of the playoffs.
Donaldson raced home from second base after Rougned Odor bounced a double-play relay in the 10th inning and Toronto beat the Texas Rangers 7-6 on Sunday night to sweep their AL Division Series.
Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, led off the 10th with a double into the right-center field gap and Matt Bush intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion.
After Jose Bautista struck out, Russell Martin hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who tried to start a double play with a feed to second base. After making the turn, second baseman Odor short-hopped his throw to first baseman Mitch Moreland and the ball skipped away, allowing Donaldson to sprint home and beat Moreland’s throw with a dive across the plate.
“I was at third base when the throw was being made,” Donaldson said. “Once I saw [Moreland] miss the pick, I felt like I had to take a chance right there.”
“When you have 50,000 fans screaming it, kind of numbs the pain a little bit,” he said afterwards. “It gives you that little extra jolt of adrenaline.”
The wild-card Blue Jays are headed back to the AL Championship Series after beating Texas in an ALDS for a second straight year and will face the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series. The Indians lead 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for Monday following a postponement Sunday. The Blue Jays will travel to either Cleveland or Boston for Game 1 on Friday.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, who spent 24 years with Cleveland before joining Toronto last fall, said he’d already reached out to one former Indians colleague about a potential ALCS meeting.
“It’s something I’ve tried not to think about,” Shapiro said, “but I texted [Indians GM] Chris Antonetti a two-word text about 10 minutes ago: Your turn.”
Toronto’s bench emptied and swarmed around Donaldson near home plate after his dramatic dash, while Bush kneeled in the infield and watched the celebration. The umpires huddled to review the play at second base, but after a brief delay, the crowd of 49,555 went wild as crew chief Joe West signaled the run counted.
“You’re like `Oh gosh, let’s not have a technicality ruin this moment for us right here,”‘ Martin said. “It was a little bit of a buzzkill at the time.”
Donaldson had two doubles among his three hits and is batting .538 through four postseason games, all wins for the Blue Jays, who had to beat Baltimore in a wild-card game to get to the ALDS.
“We definitely feel good about where we’re at,” Donaldson said. “We’re pitching well, we’re playing good defense and right now we’ve been able to hit the homer. That’s a big positive for our offense.”
The Blue Jays now get four days off before the ALCS begins Friday, and they’re happy to get it.
“Some people like to say a couple of days off might throw our timing off,” Martin said. “I really don’t believe in that. At this point in the year, a couple of days off can do wonders.”
Bautista’s homer and emphatic bat flip in Game 5 was the lasting image from Toronto’s ALDS win over the Rangers last season. On May 15, Odor famously punched Bautista to spark a brawl in Texas, and the broadcast of Sunday’s game showed a fan-made sign declaring “I would rather get punched in May than get knocked out in October.”
Bush had thrown two scoreless innings in relief prior to beginning the 10th. It was the longest career outing for the 30-year-old rookie, who was crucial in the bullpen while Texas finished with the AL’s best record.
Closer Roberto Osuna threw two perfect innings to get the win. His appearance capped 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball by Toronto’s bullpen after starter Aaron Sanchez allowed six runs.
Encarnacion had a two-run homer and Martin a solo shot in the first inning for Toronto, which swept a postseason series for the first time.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister credited Donaldson for some heads-up base-running, but seemed to wonder what might have been.
“Got the play we wanted, a double play ball,” he said. “Good feed to Odor. Just looked like he might have pulled the throw a little bit. Mitch [Moreland] reached down to try to keep it in play, got away from him a little bit and was unable to recover and make a throw to home plate.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t click at the right time,” Andrus said. “They hit the ball well and never let us feel comfortable.”
Andrus hit a solo homer in the third and Odor added a two-run shot in the fourth. They were the only two homers of the series for Texas.
“We got cold at the worst moment,” Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre said.
Moreland gave Texas a 6-5 lead with a two-run double off Joe Biagini in the sixth, but Toronto responded in the bottom half when Troy Tulowitzki scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s bases-loaded passed ball.
Colby Lewis allowed five runs in two innings for Texas.
Texas has lost six straight postseason games, all to Toronto. The Rangers hadn’t lost on a game-ending play since June 30 against the Yankees.
In injury news, Blue Jays second-baseman Devon Travis sat out his second straight game with a right knee injury but was available off the bench. Travis, who was scratched from the lineup Friday, had a cortisone shot Saturday. Reliever Francisco Liriano, who sustained a concussion in Game 2, exited the ballpark several hours before the game because he wasn’t feeling well.
Prior to the game, the Jays announced enhanced security and “alcohol management measures” would be in place at the stadium. That included all beer in cups in the wake of a can-throwing incident in Game 2 that led to a fan being charged with mischief.