Jose Bautista bat-flips away all-time weird inning, sends Blue Jays to ALCS

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For a moment it looked like one of the strangest plays in postseason history would lead to the Rangers advancing past the Blue Jays and into the ALCS, as Russell Martin‘s throw back to the pitcher in the seventh inning glanced off Shin-Soo Choo‘s bat, bounced away, and allowed Rougned Odor to sprint home from third base with the go-ahead run as the Rogers Centre crowd went nuts and the umpiring crew consulted replay.

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And then the Rangers forgot how to catch the ball.

Beginning the bottom of the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead, the Rangers committed a trio of errors and a fourth play in which Odor was unable to snag a soft liner that landed just past his out-stretched glove, tying the game at 3-3. Jose Bautista then stepped to the plate with two runners on base and launched a monstrous, no-doubt-about-it home run off reliever Sam Dyson that was matched only by his epic post-homer bat-flip.

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Later that half-inning benches cleared on two different occasions, as Dyson seemed equal parts confused and angry about what had taken place as the Rangers went from leading 3-2 on a controversial play to trailing 6-3 on a bunch of misplays and a Bautista bomb. The range of emotions in both halves of the seventh inning were incredible, as each side experienced the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.

That was the story of the entire series, really, as the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead by taking the first two games in Toronto and then the Blue Jays won both games in Texas before the unforgettable Game 5 back in Canada.

When the dust settled and the beer cans were cleared off the turf the Blue Jays escaped with their first playoff series victory since winning the World Series in 1993. Rookie reliever Roberto Osuna, who hadn’t even been born yet last time Toronto made the playoffs and is the youngest player in baseball at 20, closed out the 6-3 win by striking out four of the five batters he faced for a five-out save.

Exhale. Baseball is a helluva drug.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.