A deflected throw back to the mound by Toronto catcher Russell Martin allowed Texas to score a tiebreaking run, touching off a long delay and causing the Blue Jays to play the rest of Game 5 of the American League Division Series under protest.
Fans littered the field with debris during the 18-minute delay in the seventh inning Wednesday in the deciding game of the series as umpires sorted out one of the most unusual plays in playoff history.
Benches then cleared twice in the bottom half as Toronto took a 6-3 lead on third baseman Jose Bautista's tiebreaking, three-run home run. The score held up, and the Blue Jays advanced to the AL Championship Series.
"It's the most emotionally charged game that I've ever played," Bautista said.
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning and Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo at the plate, Texas took a 3-2 lead when Martin's return throw to the mound deflected off Choo's bat, allowing Rougned Odor to score from third base.
Plate umpire Dale Scott initially ruled it a dead ball, but after Rangers manager Jeff Banister questioned the call, the umpires huddled and Odor was sent home. Martin was given an error.
"I just caught the ball and threw it back very casually, and it hit his bat, and then next thing you know, the run scores. It's never happened in my life before," Martin said. "It's just one of those moments, and it created an opportunity for us to do something special."
According to Major League Baseball rule 6.03(a)(3), the batter is not to be charged with interfering with the catcher if the batter is still in the batter's box and doesn't make a movement to block or disrupt the throw.
This type of play is not subject to a manager's review, but Scott, the crew chief, after discussing the ruling with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, called an umpire's review. After a delay of 2 minutes, 32 seconds, the play stood.
Scott acknowledged making a mistake with his initial ruling.
"That was my mistake. I was mixing up two rules, and I called time, but then it started clicking. I went wait a minute, wait a minute, there's no intent on the hitter. He's in the box, the bat's in the box," Scott said. "So to make sure I'm on the right page, I got everybody together, and that's what we had. If there's no intent, if he's not out of the box, that throw's live."
Fans at Rogers Centre began throwing objects on the field after the play, leading Toronto Mayor John Tory to tweet: "Don't hurt each other or our city over this. We can prove ourselves in more ways than one. #ComeTogether."
"We went in the tunnel back there [behind the dugout] to get out of the way," Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson said of the barrage of bottles and other items.
Things devolved further in the bottom half as the Rangers made three errors to load the bases with none out.
Texas then requested a review on the next play, when Ben Revere grounded into a force at home. Dalton Pompey slid hard into catcher Chris Gimenez, who was standing on home plate. Umpires upheld the ruling.
But after Dyson replaced Rangers starter Cole Hamels, Josh Donaldson drove in a run on a forceout, and Bautista hit a long homer to put Toronto up 6-3, glaring at Dyson as he stood at home plate before enthusiastically flipping his bat away.
On-deck batter Edwin Encarnacion turned to the crowd and gestured for fans to stop throwing objects on the field. Dyson misunderstood Encarnacion's actions, and the players had words, causing the benches to clear.
"I told him Jose needs to calm that down, respect the game a little more," Dyson said.
Twenty police officers lined the outfield, and many more were stationed down the lines during the delay.
Benches cleared a second time after Troy Tulowitzki popped out foul to end the inning. Dyson made contact with Tulowitzki as he walked off, leading the benches to clear again, with Gimenez shoving Tulowitzki.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.