Fans of both the Blue Jays and Royals -- nay, fans of baseball in general -- had to have their brown paper bags at the ready as the latter half of Game 5 contained more excitement and drama than a human being is reasonably equipped to handle.
With the Rangers leading 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion breathed life into the Rogers Centre in Toronto when he belted a mammoth home run off of Cole Hamels, tying the game at two apiece. That was only the start of the drama.
In the top of the seventh, Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor stood on third base after singling and advancing a base on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Shin-Soo Choo – who hit a solo home run in the third inning -- was at the plate facing Aaron Sanchez, and after a 2-2 pitch, catcher Russell Martin attempted to make a casual return throw to his pitcher. Choo, still in the batter’s box, was simply getting himself ready for the next pitch, but Martin’s throw hit Choo’s bat. Odor alertly came home from third to score the go-ahead run as a controversy began to brew.
According to rule 6.03(a)(3), the ball is in play under two conditions: the umpire deems that the batter didn’t intend to interfere, and the batter was standing in the batter’s box at the time. The umpires stopped play to verify the ruling and the Rangers remained ahead 3-2. Chaos ensued at the Rogers Centre, as fans hurled cans of beer onto the field, causing a delay in the game. It was reminiscent of the Cardinals-Braves Wild Card game at Turner Field in 2012.
The wheels fell off for the Rangers in the bottom of the seventh inning. Shortstop Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland each committed an error to put runners on first and second to begin the frame. Jays second baseman Ryan Goins attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, pushing the ball towards third baseman Adrian Beltre. Beltre charged and fired to shortstop Andrus covering third base, but Andrus dropped the ball, loading the bases with no outs.
Reliever Sam Dyson came in for Cole Hamels and saw light at the end of the tunnel when he got Ben Revere to hit into a 3-2 fielder’s choice. He jammed the next batter, Josh Donaldson, into hitting a weak pop-up to shallow right-center, but second baseman Odor didn’t play the ball properly and it dropped in to score the tying run. Revere was thrown out on a force play at second base.
Dyson still needed to play damage control, but failed in his attempt to retire Jose Bautista. Bautista swatted Dyson’s fastball for a no-doubt, tie-breaking three-run home run to left field. His bat flip was legendary.
Aaron Sanchez put runners on first and second base in the top of the eighth inning and left with one out in the inning. Closer Roberto Osuna came in and struck out both batters he faced to end the frame. In the ninth, he got Odor to line out before striking out Mike Napoli and Will Venable to send the Jays to the ALCS.
Jays starter Marcus Stroman pitched well but his effort was unfortunately lost in all of the drama that occurred once he was out of the game. He allowed only two runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in six innings. Hamels, for the Rangers, allowed five runs (only two earned) on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. He certainly did not deserve to take the loss, considering how badly his defense let him down.
Encarnacion finished 2-for-2 with a single and a pair of walks along with the solo homer. Bautista had knocked in a run with a double in the third inning, finishing with two hits and four RBI.
Rougned Odor was the only Ranger hitter to record multiple hits on the evening.
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Cueto Redeems Himself
Johnny Cueto pitched his way back into Kansas City’s good graces, tossing eight dominant innings against the Astros to help the Royals advance to the ALCS. The right-hander allowed only two hits, a single followed by a two-run home run to Luis Valbuena in the second inning. He walked none and struck out eight.
The Royals got on the board in the fourth inning when Eric Hosmer brought in a run with a single against Astros starter Collin McHugh. The Royals took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the fifth, as Alex Rios hit a go-ahead two-run double against reliever Mike Fiers and Ben Zobrist added insurance with a sacrifice fly. McHugh finished having allowed three runs on five hits and a walk with one strikeout.
Kendrys Morales put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth when he ripped a three-run home run to left-center with two outs off of Dallas Keuchel, pitching in relief. Morales has gone yard three times in the post-season, with his other two accounting for both of the Royals’ runs in their Game 1 loss to the Astros.
Wade Davis set the Astros down in order in the ninth to send the Royals to the ALCS to face the Blue Jays.
Cueto, acquired from the Reds at the trade deadline, compiled poor numbers in 13 regular season starts with the Royals. Across 81 1/3 innings, he had a 4.76 ERA with a 56/17 K/BB ratio compared to 2.62 and 120/29 in 130 2/3 innings with the Reds. Cueto was also on the hook for four runs in the Royals’ Game 2 win against the Astros. In the world of “what have you done for me lately?” the Royals will be happy to hand the ball back to Cueto in the next round of the playoffs.
The ALCS starts on Friday in Kansas City at 7:30 PM EDT.
National League Quick Hits: Jon Lester will “probably” start NLCS Game 1 for the Cubs, per pitching coach Chris Bosio … Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (thumb) had an MRI on Wednesday … The Nationals are expected to interview Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire for their open manager position … Mets starters Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are expected to be available in relief of Game 5 NLDS starter Jacob deGrom ... Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (shoulder) is considered "50/50" to play in NLDS Game 5 against the Mets ... The Rockies outrighted pitcher Gonzalez Germen, catcher Michael McKenry, and pitcher Simon Castro on Wednesday.
American League Quick Hits: Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil (calf) did some outfield throwing prior to ALDS Game 5 … Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus struck out three times in Wednesday’s Game 5 loss to the Royals … Astros second baseman Jose Altuve went hitless in the final four games of the ALDS, a stretch of 16 at-bats … Rangers third baseman went 1-for-4 with a single in a loss to the Blue Jays in Game 5 on Wednesday … Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello collected a pair of hits in Wednesday’s Game 5 win versus the Rangers.