Elvis probably wanted to leave the building. So did Mitch and Rougnie. And there isn’t a man, woman, child, or extraterrestrial spirit in Texas, Ontario, or the world who’d blame them.
But they didn’t. And Elvis Andrus stood at his locker after it ended, took it like a man, and didn’t flinch once.
“Everything went down since my first error,” Andrus said, after the single most insane seventh inning perhaps in all baseball history dug the grave of the Texas Rangers’ otherwise miraculous season.
“We weren’t able to stay focused in that inning and everything just changed real quick. Believe me, this is the toughest time in my career right now. I can make both plays 100 times. There’s a lot of pain right now. I feel like I let down my team, my city. It hurts. [And] the last thing I’m going to look for now is an excuse. And if I do something wrong, I’m going to put my face on it.”
If you thought it sucked to be Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, there you have how much it sucks to be Elvis Andrus against the Jays in Game Five of the American League division series. The fact that Mitch Moreland sandwiched a throwing error in between Andrus’s two horrific boots almost doesn’t matter. Nor does Rougned Odor’s inability to go back and catch what became Ben Revere’s RBI shuttlecock.
Nor does Texas Rangers reliever Sam Dyson surrendering the most electrifying Blue Jays home run since Joe Carter ended the ’93 World Series at Williams’s expense.
Anyone who thought Clayton Kershaw’s postseason seventh innings were disastrous until his remarkable work in New York Tuesday night, think again. The Blue Jays and the Rangers finished getting Kershaw off the hook with their own Game Five seventh inning.
You thought baseball could marry The Twilight Zone to The Outer Limits in the past? Wednesday afternoon in Rogers Centre made that marriage resemble The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
In one surrealistic inning on two surrealistically broken plays, Andrus, Moreland, and Odor joined a house of horrors already hosting Russell Martin, Grady Little, Alex Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, Bill Buckner, Donnie Moore, Don Denkinger, Tom Niedenfeuer, Tommy Lasorda, Gene Mauch, Ralph Branca, and Johnny Pesky. Men who’d tried, done their best, failed in the effort and in the worst possible moments, and were battered by the ignorant who forget that in any game somebody has to lose.
Russell Martin? The Blue Jays catcher? Not your fault you forgot that one, almost, considering the mayhem of the bottom of the seventh. It was Martin in the top, hitting Shin-soo Choo’s bat with a return throw to the mound, ricocheting off the bat into fair territory and up toward third base, that let Odor score from third to break a two-all tie and send the crowd into a nuclear, trash-throwing meltdown.
For that one moment it looked like Martin would be where Andrus ended up. And though the play wasn’t subject to an ump’s review, crew chief Dale Scott gave one after talking about the ruling with Jays manager John Gibbons. Rule 6.03(a)3 doesn’t charge interference if the batter’s in the box and makes no move to block a throw.
Choo had just stood in the box holding his bat up but not appearing to hang it over the box line deliberately. And it still looked like the Rangers caught the break of the century when the run stood for a 3-2 lead. If they could hold that re-claimed lead, they’d look like maybe the most charmed team in the American League this side of the Houston Astros.
It would be Kevin Pillar grounding into a quick double play that wasn’t when Moreland threw it on a wild bounce to Andrus. “The ball was hit off of the end of the bat,” Moreland said after the game. “It had a lot of spin on it. It kind of kicked up. It got me back on my heels. I just tried to rush the throw. I never really had a good grip on it.”
It would be Ryan Goins bunting horrifically but all hands safe when Andrus dropped third baseman Adrian Beltre’s throw, then Martin’s pinch runner Dalton Pompey out at the plate on a grounder to first, but Pillar scoring on a force at second.
And it would be Dyson relieving Rangers starter Cole Hamels, watching Revere’s floater elude Odor and the re-tying run score, then serving Jose Bautista something good enough to hit into the second deck behind center field, giving the Jays a 6-3 lead to which they clung for dear life.
Not to mention Dyson provoking a bench-clearing brawl when Edwin Encarnacion prepared to bat next. Some thought he misconstrued Encarnacion’s plea to the crowd to cool off as trying instead to whip them up. Turns out Dyson was furious over Bautista’s dramatic bat flip as he left the box to run out his bomb.
“I told him Jose needs to calm that down, Just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson said after the game. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up and playing this game. He’s doing stuff that kids do in whiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done.”
Bautista also did something kids playing in whiffle ball games, backyard baseball, and the Little League dream of doing if and when they grow up to become major leaguers in postseason play—hitting dramatic bombs that send their teams to the next postseason level after the other guys implode inexplicably. This wasn’t just regular-season showboating. Lighten up, Sam.
“I can’t really remember what was going through my mind, to be quite honest with you,” said Bautista after the game. “After I made contact, I just, I didn’t plan anything that I did. So I still don’t even know how I did it. I just enjoyed the moment, ran around the bases, got to the dugout, and after all the guys stopped punching me and hitting me is when I started realizing what had happened. I knew I did something great for the team at the moment of impact because I knew I hit that ball pretty good. And I gave us the lead in a crucial moment, so I was happy to do that.”
So was Martin, in the end, happy to make what proved the most powerful throwing mistake in postseason history, possibly.
“I just caught the ball and threw it back very casually,” he said after the game, “and it hit his bat, and then next thing you know, run scores. It’s never happened in my life before. It’s just one of those moments, and it created an opportunity for us to do something special.” Even if they had to endure and plead with some in the Rogers Centre crowd to knock it off with trashing the field and, in some case, the stands when the call was reversed.
The Jays as as worthy of moving on to the American League Championship Series as the Rangers proved to be in getting to the now-concluded division series in the first place. And on Wednesday Marcus Stroman pitched stoutly for the Jays, and so did Cole Hamels for the Rangers. The Rangers opened the scoring with Delino DeShields on a first-inning force out and Choo’s third-inning bomb; the Jays answered with Bautista’s RBI double in the third and Encarnacion’s bomb in the sixth.
But can you name any team written off as the season began thanks to their disabled list, surprising everyone in the solar system with such a comeback as to snatch their division from yet another kind of Cinderella story—only to watch in abject horror as their usually sure shortstop led an error parade that ended with a monstrous tie-breaking, ultimately game-winning three-run homer?
But can you name any team dissipating into a shambolic mess on the field in the same inning in which their opponent’s surrealistic throwing error put them back up top in a win-or-be-gone game, other than this year’s Rangers? And, any team who deserved to dissipate in one jarring inning less?
These Rangers were overachievers who got to within nine outs of advancing to a shot at the World Series. Undone in the seventh inning when their shortstop lost his handle twice. He hadn’t been playing out of position or starting the wrong way.
It’s one thing to fail by doing things you know aren’t smart. It’s something else again to fail out of honest effort. And did anyone mention that the Rangers went 0-for-7 with men in scoring position in Game Five?
“Many of us wish that, just once, we could be in your shoes and have a chance to fail so grandly,” Thomas Boswell once wrote about men crowned with the goat horns. “Although, if we really had to live the experience and its aftermath, which sometimes lasts a lifetime, maybe we would not.”
Let Rangers fans forgive Elvis, Mitch, and Rougnie. Just the way they forgave Nelson Cruz in the 2011 World Series for being unable to run down David Freese’s ultimate triple, out of a no-doubles defense, which let the St. Louis Cardinals mount two down-to-their-last-strike upendings in Game Six.
Just the way manager Jeff Banister did, with Andrus at least, sidling up to his shortstop after Andrus’s stand-up session with the press, and giving him a hug.
Even if there’s really nothing to forgive.