first_imgTORONTO — Toronto clinched its first trip to the American League Championship Series since 1993 with a crazy win against Texas on Wednesday to complete a comeback from a 2-0 series deficit, and will take on a Kansas City team that sealed its berth with an authoritative win against Houston.Toronto beat the Rangers 6-3 in a division series decider which hinged on an extraordinary seventh inning that took 53 minutes to complete.A denied-then-reinstated run on one of the more contentious umpiring calls in playoff history sparked an official protest by the Blue Jays, an angry response from home fans that caused a long game delay, later bench-clearing confrontations and police lining the field.Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, whose three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh proved the game winner, said it was “the most emotionally charged game that I’ve ever played.”The drama of the game itself was matched by the context; the Blue Jays became only the third side in history to lose two home games to begin a best-of-five playoff series and rally to take it 3-2.Compared to that, Kansas City’s 7-2 win against Houston was a calm affair, though the stakes were just as high, with the Royals taking a 3-2 series victory against an Astros team that had exceeded expectations all season.The Royals return to the ALCS, which they won last season before losing the World Series to San Francisco. Kansas City vs. Toronto is a reprised of the 1985 ALCS, which the Royals won.The Toronto-Texas game was proceeding in unremarkable but closely-contested fashion through six innings, when Edwin Encarnarcion’s homer for the Blue Jays tied the game 2-2.What followed will be debated for years to come.In the top of the seventh, Texas’ Choo Shin-soo was at the plate when Toronto catcher Russell Martin tried to throw the ball back to the pitcher. The ball hit Choo’s bat and dribbled toward third base, allowing runner Rougned Odor to score.Home plate umpire Dale Scott initially ruled it a dead ball but, after Rangers manager Jeff Banister questioned that call, the umpires consulted and overturned that ruling, allowing Odor to trot to home plate for the go-ahead run.“I just caught the ball and threw it back very casually and it hit his bat and then next thing you know run scores. It’s never happened in my life before,” Martin said.The Blue Jays filed a protest and outraged home fans pelted the field with debris during an 18-minute delay.The Rangers then made three consecutive errors to start the bottom of the seventh, with Martin reaching on a fielding error by shortstop Elvis Andrus to start it off.Kevin Pillar followed with a grounder to first, but Martin was safe at second on an errant throw by Mitch Moreland.Ryan Goins followed with a sacrifice bunt. Adrian Beltre fielded the ball and threw to third, but Andrus dropped the ball for his second error of the inning, loading the bases.“This is the toughest moment of my career so far,” Andrus said. “I feel like I let down my team and my city.”Ben Revere’s ground ball was fielded by Moreland, who threw out the runner out at the plate for the first out of the inning.Donaldson tied it 3-3 with a flare just beyond the reach of Odor at second, but Revere was forced out for the second out.Bautista followed with a towering drive into the second deck, glaring at Rangers reliever Sam Dyson as he stood at home plate to admire his shot, enthusiastically flipping his bat away.With some fans continuing to litter the field, Encarnacion turned to face the crowd and appealed for calm, lifting his bat and helmet over his head. Dyson took exception and walked over to confront Encarnacion, leading to both dugouts and both bullpens emptying.During the scrum that was quickly dissolved, 20 Toronto police officers stood across the outfield, while others gathered along the foul lines. Police later took position on the roof of the Rangers’ first base dugout before the bottom of the ninth.There were two more singles but the inning ended without further score. Dyson made contact with Toronto’s Tulowitzki as he walked off, leading benches to clear again, with Texas catcher Chris Gimenez shoving Tulowitzki.In Kansas City, Johnny Cueto pitched eight dominant innings to steer the Royals past Houston 7-2.Cueto allowed just two hits before retiring the final 19 batters he faced. He struck out eight without a walk.The Royals trailed 2-1 in the fifth when Alex Rios led hit a go-ahead, two-run double. Eric Hosmer and Ben Zobrist also drove in runs, while Kendrys Morales capped the festive night with a three-run homer in the eighth to put it away.Collin McHugh (1-1), who won the divisional series opener for Houston, allowed three runs in four-plus innings. His bullpen fared little better just two days after it blew a four-run, eighth-inning lead to send the series back to Kauffman Stadium for Game 5.The Astros actually seemed poised after their meltdown Sunday, bolting to the lead in front of a charged Kansas City crowd thanks to a rare series of Royals defensive lapses.With two outs in the second, Gattis sent a slow hopper down the line that third baseman Mike Moustakas fielded cleanly. But with plenty of time, his throw across the infield went wide, and first baseman Eric Hosmer had the ball pop from his glove trying to make a swipe tag.On the next pitch, Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer.It wasn’t until the fourth that Kansas City got a run back, on back-to-back singles by Cain and Hosmer. But by the fifth, the Royals had figured out McHugh’s darting curveball.Salvador Perez was hit by a pitch, and Alex Gordon hit a ground-rule double to right. Rios then sent a double bouncing down the chalk of the third-base line, scoring two runs and giving the Royals the lead.Following a sacrifice bunt, Zobrist’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2.TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more