Mark Shapiro, the Toronto Blue Jays president and chief executive officer, said the play unfolded before his eyes like it was in slow motion.
Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who witnessed the mayhem from the on-deck circle, could not help but recall the madness of Matt Holliday’s famous trip home that won the Colorado Rockies the wild-card tiebreaker game in 2007.
And Josh Donaldson, the man of the moment whose daring dash home for the winning run late Sunday night propelled the Toronto Blue Jays to a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers, pushing his team into the American League Champion Series, said he was just playing the odds.
“I’m banking on the fact that I’m going to make it more times than not, and it ended up workout out for us tonight,” Donaldson said in the aftermath of yet another Toronto clubhouse celebration, the second of its kind in the Jays’ run through the 2016 Major League Baseball playoffs.
In the final analysis, no matter how that final play will be recalled, the only outcome the Blue Jays really care about is the 10-inning win they managed to manufacture over the Rangers at Rogers Centre.
With the win, the Blue Jays ousted the Rangers 3-0 in the best-of-five AL Division Series to move on to the ALCS for the second straight year.
The score was tied 6-6 in the bottom of the tenth when Donaldson led off the inning with a double against Texas reliever Matt Bush.
Then Edwin Encarnacion was given an intentional walk to set up the possibility of a double play.
After Jose Bautista struck out, up to the plate stepped Russell Martin, who churned out a quality eight-pitch at-bat against Bush, fouling off consecutive pitches on a 3-2 count.
On the next offering, Martin stroked a grounder to Elvis Andrus, the Rangers shortstop, in what appeared to be a tailor-made double-play that would take Texas safely out of the inning.
Andrus relayed the ball to second base to Rougned Odor for the first out, but Odor’s rushed relay to Mitch Moreland at first to try to nab Martin was in the dirt.
Moreland could not scoop the ball up cleanly and it bounced a few feet away from the him, and that’s all that Donaldson needed to see as he rounded third on the play.
“Once I saw [Moreland] miss the pick, I felt like I had to take a chance right there and fortunately for us I was able to make it,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson lowered his head and headed for home, sore hip and all, where he slid head-first across the plate in advance of the throw home to Texas catcher Jonathan Lucroy, setting off another Blue Jays victory dance on their home field.
For Shapiro, who watched the game from a private box, the play personified the no-holds barred style Donaldson has personified since he arrived with the Blue Jays last season, when he went on to win the AL MVP award.
“It was aggressive,” Shapiro said. “I think it’s a reflection of his personality. For great players to be great you can’t be afraid to fail. That was a play he made without fear.”
Watching the play unfold, Shapiro said several elements stuck him.
“It seemed like you were watching it through slow motion,” he said. “Just the at-bat (by Martin) was an incredible at-bat. It’s a battle, not giving in. Bush was just dealing, his stuff was just ridiculous.
“Just watching, you had an idea [Donaldson] might decide to do that, it just unfolded so slowly. He challenged them to make the perfect play, it was going to take that.”
Tulowitzki, who was the next batter due up for Toronto after Martin, took in all the excitement from the on-deck circle.
He said Donaldson’s play made reminded him of 1997, when he was just a rookie with Colorado and the Rockies recorded an epic triumph over San Diego thanks to an equally aggressive slide home by Holliday for the winning run.
“It reminded me of that Matt Holliday slide,” Tulowitzki said. “I had the best view in the house right there on deck. I’m just happy to celebrate it with my team.”
Tulowitzki said there was no doubt in his mind Donaldson, like Holliday, was going to make it.
“I did,” he said. “You see those plays all the time where people just panic. Obviously, that crowd comes into effect. Even if he’s going to be out by a lot that guy who has the ball in his hand, usually they mess it up.”Report Typo/Error
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