The NHL season has started, but no one in the hockey-crazed city of Toronto seems to care.
That’s because the Blue Jays have advanced to their first ACLS since 1993, this after beating the Texas Rangers, 6-3, on Wednesday in one of the craziest playoff games in recent memory.
“Everybody’s loving this Blue Jays team, and what’s not to love?” 590 The Fan radio host Jeff Sammut said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They’ve got a bit of everything. They’ve got old guys, they’ve got young guys and they’ve got a ton of character. You can just see it’s a good team. They got a lot of good character on this club and it certainly has resonated in the city of Toronto.”
You can look at the box score and see what happened in the seventh inning, but that won’t do the 53-minute marathon justice. An obscure rule that led to the Rangers taking the lead, three errors, a three-run homer, multiple bench-clearings.
It was ridiculous.
“It’s one of those games that I think a lot of people here in the city are going to wake up tomorrow morning and say did that all happen in one game?” Sammut said. “It felt like a series worth that happened in just one inning.”
In the end, though, the enduring image from that inning – and the game itself – will be Jose Bautista’s three-run bomb to break a 3-3 tie.
“If it was anybody that was going to do that – maybe aside from Josh Donaldson, who’s having an MVP year – it had to be Jose Bautista,” Sammut said. “This guy has really stepped up. He’s the leader of this club. I know there’s a lot of leaders on the Toronto Blue Jays and a lot of characters we talked about, but this is Jose Bautista’s team and that was the guy that was going to win it for the Toronto Blue Jays and he did it tonight.”
Bautista’s ensuing bat flip was just as memorable as the homer – perhaps even more so, mainly because it emptied the benches.
“I’m always in the category of act like you’ve done it before,” Sammut said, “but it was such an emotional roller coaster in this game, and it felt like the weight of the world has been on Jose Bautista and he finally gets to the postseason. We’re talking about a guy that was once with four major league ball clubs in a year. And here he is, he’s a big star and he’s finally in the playoffs. He’s been through so much with the Toronto Blue Jays. I think all of the emotions and all that and everything that Jose Bautista has been through has culminated in that one moment. The bat flip was cool. I liked it. It was fine. He wasn’t doing it with any intent or to try and show anybody up.”
The Jays advance to the ACLS to take on the Royals, who are 10-1 in their last 11 elimination games. Game 1 is Friday in Kansas City at 8:07 p.m. ET.
Jays fans will have a chance to redeem themselves in this series. Fans littered the field with garbage following the controversial seventh-inning call that allowed Rougned Odor to score on a throwing error by Russell Martin and give Texas a 3-2 lead.
Sammut said Jays fans are far classier than that incident suggested.
“If (David Price) sticks around and is a Blue Jay beyond this year, the fans have a lot to do with that because he has relay found a home here in Toronto,” Sammut said. “This is a tremendous Blue Jays fan base that’s been extremely supportive. And unfortunately, when we talk about them tonight, we talk about the select few that were at the ball game that were doing that. It was embarrassing and I hope a lot of them paid a price. If any good comes out of that tonight, it’s really making them stand out in a bad way and shaming people into not ever doing that again – not only in Toronto, but across Major League Baseball.”