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Blue Jays sweep Rangers in ALDS with wild walkoff win

Russell Martin is swarmed by teammates after his fielder’s choice grounder leads to the error that lifts the Blue Jays over Rangers, punch their ticket for the AL Championship Series.
Russell Martin is swarmed by teammates after his fielder’s choice grounder leads to the error that lifts the Blue Jays over Rangers, punch their ticket for the AL Championship Series.
Published Oct. 10, 2016

TORONTO — Josh Donaldson's mad dash moved the Blue Jays into the next round of the playoffs.

Donaldson raced home from second base after Rougned Odor bounced a double play relay in the 10th inning, and Toronto beat the Rangers 7-6 on Sunday night to sweep their AL Division Series.

Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, led off the 10th with a double into the right-centerfield gap, and Matt Bush intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion.

After Jose Bautista struck out, Russell Martin hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who tried to start a double play with a feed to second base. After making the turn, second baseman Odor short-hopped his throw to first baseman Mitch Moreland and the ball skipped away, allowing Donaldson to sprint home and beat Moreland's throw with a dive across the plate.

"I was at third base when the throw was being made," Donaldson said. "Once I saw (Moreland) miss the pick, I felt like I had to take a chance right there."

The wild-card Blue Jays are headed back to the AL Championship Series after beating Texas in an ALDS for a second straight year and will face the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series.

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, who spent 24 years with Cleveland before joining Toronto last fall, said he'd already reached out to one former Indians colleague about a potential ALCS meeting.

"It's something I've tried not to think about," Shapiro said, "but I texted (Indians GM) Chris Antonetti a two-word text about 10 minutes ago: Your turn."

Toronto's bench emptied and swarmed around Donaldson near home plate after his dramatic dash, while Bush, the former Rays farmhand, kneeled in the infield and watched the celebration. The umpires huddled to review the play at second base, but after a brief delay, the crowd of 49,555 went wild as crew chief Joe West signaled the run counted.

"You're like, 'Oh gosh, let's not have a technicality ruin this moment for us right here,' " Martin said. "It was a little bit of a buzzkill at the time."

Ex-Ray powers Nats

WASHINGTON — The breeze that gusted in from leftfield Sunday afternoon hit the Nationals with cruel reality as Jose Lobaton stepped to the plate in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Their aces had struggled. Their offense had faltered. Their weaknesses had been exposed and their strengths sat dormant. Dodgers starter Rich Hill, who had not been good enough to make their roster in 2015, was good enough to embarrass them with curveball after curveball. A cross-country flight and a two-game deficit loomed.

Then Lobaton, of all people, took a mighty swing. The ball flew high to left, and curses flew around the dugout, because almost everyone thought the wind was sure to knock it down.

But Lobaton's blast sliced through the breeze and landed in the Dodgers bullpen, giving the Nationals their first lead of the series. The script flipped on that swing, which lifted them to a 5-2 victory that was preserved by their bullpen, which did some postseason script-flipping itself.

"A couple guys in the dugout were like, 'Wow, maybe that moment wasn't windy,' " said Lobaton, a former Ray. "Maybe that moment it just stopped, and gave me something extra."

When Lobaton came to bat, the Nationals had three postseason hits with runners in scoring position since Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. He had one hit against left-handers all season. Hill had allowed one home run with men on base all season. But Lobaton defied the breeze and the odds and sent the Nationals on a cross-country flight to Los Angeles needing two wins to advance — not two wins to stay alive.

INDIANS AT RED SOX, PPD.: Game 3 of the AL Division Series in Boston was rained out and rescheduled for 6:08 tonight. Cleveland will be looking to complete a sweep.

BEER CANS BANNED: The Blue Jays said beer will be poured into cups at their stadium for the rest of the postseason after a fan threw a can at an Orioles outfielder during the AL wild-card game.