Skip to main content

The seventh inning of the fifth and deciding game of the American League Division Series began at 6:13 p.m. on Wednesday. It ended 53 minutes later, which is a little long for a baseball inning.

There isn't enough space in this entire newspaper to adequately capture what happened in between.

We talk a lot about the agony and the ecstasy of sports. It's never been so visceral in this city. If you saw it, for however long you are alive, you will not forget it.

The Toronto Blue Jays went from being robbed of a playoff series in the most bizarre possible fashion to decisively undoing the Texas Rangers. The crowd swung from frightening rage to unbridled joy.

The Coles Notes: The Jays won 6-3. They are now four victories from playing in their first World Series in nearly a quarter-century.

But how they won that inning will be talked about here, and perhaps throughout baseball, for years to come.

Top of the seventh. Score tied 2-2. Two outs and a man on third. The capacity crowd was by now reduced to a low, feral growl. They'd already spent most of their energy.

Midway through an at-bat, Jays' catcher Russell Martin received a ball, then threw it back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez. We see this interchange roughly 250 times in a ball game. It's so commonplace, it's invisible. Until suddenly, it wasn't.

Just as Mr. Martin released the ball, the batter, Texas's Shin-Soo Choo, extended his arms. The ball hit Mr. Choo's bat and caromed lazily into the field of play. As the runner came home from third, home-plate umpire Dale Scott extended his hands, in the gesture meaning "dead ball" or "time out." Except, it wasn't.

After the umpires conferred, and then conferred again at great length, the run was allowed to score. While they huddled, everyone else lost it. The crowd began chucking bottles onto the field. Waves of them, many hitting people sitting at field level. There was a real sense that a riot was imminent.

Jays manager John Gibbons raged at Mr. Scott, to little effect. The game was put under official protest. After perhaps 15 minutes of delays and repeated crowd-based interruptions, Mr. Choo struck out.

By rule, the call was correct, but Mr. Scott's "time" call should have negated it. It didn't. You could argue that a city and a country have never felt so frustrated together about anything, ever. It was frustration reaching critical mass.

You felt in that moment that you were watching a Toronto-based sports team lose in the most Toronto way possible. I'm not sure how many police officers were in the Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, but there weren't nearly enough.

Then we went to the bottom of the seventh. And it got weirder.

The first three Toronto batters reached base on errors. Not trying-to-make-a-really-tough-play-and-just-missing errors. These were Fielding 101 errors, and two by the shortstop. Again – unheard of. It had never before happened in postseason history.

Now the bases were loaded and the crowd had slingshotted to a sort of karmic delirium. They still couldn't believe what was happening, but in the completely opposite way.

A Josh Donaldson bloop tied the game, misplayed by the second baseman. With two on, Jose Bautista came up to bat.

Five years ago, after his breakout season, the Jays agonized over whether to offer Mr. Bautista what is now a preposterously under-market five-year, $65 million (U.S.) deal. The room was split. General manager Alex Anthopoulos cast the deciding vote: Yes.

That decision connects directly to Mr. Bautista's at-bat in the seventh. With the count 1-1, Bautista hit a towering home run. That shot also connects to Joe Carter in 1993.

If you weren't there back then, now you know how it felt.

Mr. Bautista didn't just bat flip after the home run. He tried to tomahawk it into the stands.

How would you describe the noise as that ball cleared the wall? "Elemental" is a good word. Like something being created anew. In this case, it was hope.

Mr. Bautista surely saved the game. He may also have saved Toronto's entire downtown from destruction. One can just imagine Dale Scott's relief as that ball cleared the wall in left-centre.

One batter later, the benches cleared as Edwin Encarnacion began jawing with pitcher Sam Dyson. They'd clear again before it was finished. At some point, pitcher Mark Buehrle – who isn't even on the postseason roster – would be ejected from the game.

The eighth and ninth were gut-clenchers, but you just knew in your bones that Toronto had cleared the real hurdle. In that seventh inning, Toronto pushed its sports curse to the most absurd limit, and then broke it.

Until that inning, none of the city's three major teams had won a playoff round – a single round – since 2004.

The last of those teams to win three straight postseason elimination games, as the Jays just have, was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. That's a while ago.

The Jays didn't just win Wednesday night. They allowed a city to move past a decade's worth of disappointments – all those meaningless Septembers, the Raptors' Kyle Lowry getting blocked on the final shot and the Leafs being three goals up with 11 minutes to go. The Jays didn't erase all the bad memories, but they eased them.

As it ended, with a Roberto Osuna strikeout, pure pandemonium, but the best kind. All ill will had drained from the place. People were re-learning how to celebrate something like this. If you're under the age of majority, you've probably never had the chance.

You may not remember much of that Thursday morning. What you'll remember is the seventh.

There have been 3.75 million innings played in the history of Major League Baseball. There's never been one quite like that. And there never will be again.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Check Following for new articles