Since the quarantine began, I’ve done a lot of basketball content, but this past week, I realized how much I was starting to miss baseball. We would have already been over a month into the season, but now we can only hope that baseball will return this summer.
In lieu of live baseball during what is usually one of my favorite times of the year, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite games of the last decade (thank God for YouTube): Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. This game is obviously remembered for Jose Bautista’s towering go-ahead home run and emphatic bat flip, but the entire game was actually super entertaining.
Because I don’t have much else going on, I will be breaking down the game inning by inning and describing the action as if I’m watching the game for the first time.
The Set Up
Obviously, since it is a win or go home Game 5, the series is tied 2-2, but the interesting part about this series is that the home team has yet to win a game. The Rangers won the first two games in Toronto, but the Blue Jays battled the series back even with two wins on the road in Arlington with their backs against the wall.
Now, back in Toronto, the Blue Jays will try to harness their home field advantage with an extremely loud crowd of almost 50,000 in Rogers Centre. There are not many games where you can consistently hear the roar of the crowd during the TV broadcast, but this was one of them.
The starting pitching matchup is a rematch of Game 2 between Marcus Stroman and Cole Hamels. Stroman tore his ACL during spring training, but he rehabbed quickly to get back into the rotation in September, where he went 4-0 down the stretch. As a second-year pitcher, this series was his first taste of postseason play.
Meanwhile, Hamels was one of the most experienced postseason pitchers in baseball from his time with the Phillies. This was his 15th career postseason start, and he had won both the NLCS and World Series MVP during Philadelphia’s 2008 title run. He was traded from Philadelphia to Texas at the trade deadline of 2015, and this was the exact situation the Rangers wanted him for.
Delino DeShields leads off the game with a double off Stroman, and he later scores on a Prince Fielder ground ball to first base to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Stroman escapes without any further damage.
Hamels breezes through his first inning, retiring the Blue Jays in order on just 11 pitches.
Stroman continues to work in and out of trouble. After a leadoff walk to Josh Hamilton, he makes a nice play off the mound to foil Elvis Andrus’ bunt attempt by getting Hamilton out at second. A single by Rougned Odor puts runners on first and second, but Stroman strikes out Chris Gimenez and then Andrus gets caught stealing third to end the inning. That’s a pretty bad baserunning blunder, especially with how well DeShields has been swinging the bat.
In the bottom of the inning, Hamels also works into trouble by walking Edwin Encarnacion and surrendering a bloop single to Chris Colabello. But then he bears down to get three straight outs, including a huge eight-pitch strikeout of Troy Tulowitzki, to keep the score 1-0 Rangers.
The Rangers get a burst of power from Shin-Soo Choo, who hits a towering solo home run off Stroman to put the Rangers up 2-0. Aside from an Adrian Beltre single, there isn’t any action the rest of the inning.
The Blue Jays finally break through against Hamels. Ben Revere reaches on an infield single, and then Bautista drives him in with an RBI double to make the score 2-1. I have a feeling this won’t be the only big hit for Bautista in this game. Hamels manages to work out of any further trouble, but he really labors to do so and his pitch count is around 60 now.
Stroman gets his first 1-2-3 inning, thanks especially to a signature diving catch in center field by Kevin Pillar.
Hamels also retires the Blue Jays in order, a much-needed quick inning for him.
Stroman works around a leadoff infield single by Gimenez and strikes out two batters to keep the deficit at just one.
Hamels registered his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning, thanks in part to a terrific play by Beltre (who is playing with an injured back) on Revere’s bunt attempt.
Stroman works out of a jam yet again. After giving up a two-out double to Hamilton, he gets Andrus to ground out to end the frame.
Encarnacion hits a mammoth home run off Hamels to tie the game at two, sending Rogers Centre into a frenzy. But Hamels came right back to strike out the next two Blue Jays hitters. We are now set up for the game’s climax and one of the craziest innings in recent baseball history.
Aarin Sanchez is pitching now for Toronto. He lets up a leadoff single to Odor. After a sacrifice bunt and another groundout, Odor ends up at third base with Choo at the plate. This is where the craziness begins.
After a routine pitch by Sanchez to make the count 2-2, the throw back to the pitcher by catcher Russell Martin strikes Choo’s bat and Odor comes in to score. At first the home plate umpire ruled it a dead ball, but after discussing it with the other umpires, it was determined that Choo was still in the box. So when the ball struck his bat, it was incidental contact and a live ball. As a result, Odor is awarded home and the Rangers take a 3-2 lead. Martin gets charged with an error on the play.
Needless to say, neither the Blue Jays nor their fans like the call, and as manager John Gibbons is arguing with the umpires, fans start throwing stuff onto the field, resulting in an even longer delay. A Blue Jays player on the bench is ejected, and Gibbons tells the crew that the game is being played under protest.
After 18 minutes of utter chaos, Choo strikes out to end the frame.
The bottom half of the inning is just as wild. Hamels is still pitching for the Rangers, but the defense begins to completely implode behind him. First, Andrus botches a routine ground ball at shortstop. Then, Mitch Moreland makes a poor throw to second on a grounder to first base. Finally, Beltre plays Ryan Goins’ sacrifice bunt perfectly but Andrus drops the ball at third base. Back-to-back-to-back errors loads the bases with nobody out.
After a fielder’s choice cuts down the runner at home, Hamels gets replaced with Sam Dyson on the mound. Josh Donaldson, the eventual AL MVP of the season, then hits a bloop over Odor’s head at second base to drive in the tying run, but Odor recovers to throw the runner out, advancing from first to second.
So even though the Rangers have made three errors in the nightmare inning, they are still just one out away from getting out of it with the game still tied. But Bautista had other ideas. He hits a three-run home run to give the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead. He follows it up with the bat flip of all bat flips. It is the signature moment of his career, and if not for a guy named Joe Carter, I would say it’s the biggest home run in Blue Jays history.
Dyson works out of the inning after Toronto strings together a couple more hits, but the damage has been done. The emotions are running high too, as the benches cleared multiple times in the inning, though no fight ever broke out.
Fielder leads off with a single against Sanchez, and then gets replaced on first base by Beltre after a fielder’s choice. Sanchez then walks Moreland, bringing the tying run to the plate. Then, 20-year-old Roberto Osuna enters the game, and shuts down Texas’ opportunity with back-to-back strikeouts.
Jake Diekman comes in to pitch for the Rangers and retires Toronto in order on just nine pitches in the bottom half of the inning.
Osuna stays in the game and locks down the five-out save, striking out the final two hitters to give the Blue Jays their first postseason series win since the 1993 World Series. Sanchez got credit with the win while Hamels got tagged with the undeserved loss.
As color commentator Harold Reynolds stated on the broadcast, this was a game that we’ll never forget, and it’s just as entertaining almost five years later.