Aaron Sanchez stood in the Toronto Blue Jays locker room grinning and drenched in champagne with a Go-Pro camera attached to his forehead, recording every moment of the celebration during one of the sweetest and most bizarre nights of his life.
He was one of the three pitchers – all under the age of 25 – who helped deliver the Jays to a 6-3 Game 5 victory over the Texas Rangers in Wednesday's Game 5 of the American League Division Series, pitching through dugout-clearing melees, beer cans flying down from the stands, and roller-coaster twists of fate.
Marcus Stroman had been solid in the start, then the Jays called on two youngsters to close it out in the late innings. Sanchez, 23, and closer Roberto Osuna, 20, didn't show any young nerves.
"The future is here, we're ready," a joyous Sanchez said. "Hopefully there is more of that to come in the next few years. The three youngsters did it, it was a team win. We were down 0-2 in Texas. The hitters got us back into it. You never know in a Game 5."
The second-year major-leaguer had to tune out the deafening boos and the beer cans being launched onto the Rogers Centre field by angry fans after he watched Russell Martin brush the bat of Texas hitter Shin-Soo Choo while throwing the ball back to the mound, and it dribbled to toward third base and was ruled a live throw rather than interference. A Texas run scored, and the Jays were down 3-2. The fans were livid and loud, but Sanchez stayed in the zone through a lengthy review that only seemed to further agitate the fans.
"I thought, 'man, this can't happen, this is crazy stuff,' and they sat there for what felt like a half hour with no answers," Sanchez said. "When beer cans were coming down, I tried not to think about it, I tried to stay locked in. I knew I had to pitch. I needed our guys to get up so we could get some runs."
The Jays provided four more dramatic runs, and Osuna was called in late in the eighth inning to close it down. Both men, hurling fastballs at some 95 miles an hour, held steady.
Osuna was signed by the Blue Jays out of Mexico as a 16-year-old, and played three seasons in their minor-league organization before he became the youngest pitcher to appear in a game for the organization this past April. He holds the distinction of being the first player born in 1995 to play in Major League Baseball. As he has much of this year, Osuna remained cool as a cucumber with the 6-3 lead.
He faced five batters in a stadium jammed to the rafters with fans who, before this series, hadn't seen playoff baseball since 1993. He allowed no hits, striking out veterans Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli with his face as blank as though he was tossing warmups out in the bullpen.
Osuna's first show of emotion came with the final strikeout, as he looked upward in thanks before his teammates swallowed him up in an avalanche of embraces.
"Those kids have nerves of steel, they aren't afraid," Martin said. "They enjoy it. They love being in the moment."
Meanwhile, Toronto left-handed reliever Brett Cecil was throwing lightly before Game 5, a surprising scene after he suffered a torn calf muscle during Game 2 last week. The left-handed relief pitcher was injured while running down Mike Napoli between first and second base.
His absence has left the Jays with just two left-handed pitchers on the roster: starter David Price and reliever Aaron Loup, who left the team earlier this week because of an unspecified family issue.
Because Cecil was removed from the Jays' playoff roster and replaced with righty Ryan Tepera, Cecil becomes ineligible to play in the ALCS. He could, however, return to pitch in the World Series if the Jays advance that far.