Bautista's HR, bat flip earn Esurance hardware
Slugger's three-run shot from ALDS Game 5 recognized with award for Best Play, Offence
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista's bat flip heard 'round the world has gone down as one of the biggest moments in Blue Jays history, and now it also has the title of Best Play, Offence at the 2015 Esurance MLB Awards.
Bautista's three-run homer during the decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series edged out a pair of plays by rival Kansas City. Lorenzo Cain scoring from first base to help clinch the AL Championship Series and Alex Gordon's game-tying home run in Game 1 of the World Series finished as runners-up.
The shot from Bautista altered the direction of an organization that had not won a postseason series in 22 years. It was an emotionally charged moment that saw Bautista's celebration become a talking point for several days -- but more importantly helped the Blue Jays advance to the ALCS.
"I knew it was gone. I was enjoying it," Bautista said at the time. "It was a huge moment in the game. I knew I did something great for the team and that's it. I don't remember much after that until I ran the bases and got into the dugout. That's when I started coming to again."
The Blue Jays and Rangers were tied at 3 in that seventh inning when Bautista stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. With a 1-1 count, Bautista unloaded on a 97-mph pitch from Rangers right-hander Sam Dyson and sent it deep into the left-center-field seats at Rogers Centre.
Bautista's homer was the 11th go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later of a winner-take-all game in postseason history and the second with at least two runners on base. The other was Hal Smith's three-run homer for the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth inning of the 1960 World Series.
In Toronto sports moments, Bautista's homer now ranks right up there with Joe Carter's walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series and Roberto Alomar's homer off Dennis Eckersley in the '92 ALCS. No wonder he couldn't help but celebrate the moment by tossing his bat high into the air.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor Major League Baseball's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five components, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) voters.
Individual awards were presented for 22 separate categories, including Best Major Leaguer, Everyday Player, Bounceback Player, Social Media Personality and Postseason Performer. Winners were also recognized for the year's Best Offensive Play, Defensive Play, Moment, Single-Game Performance, Social Media Post, Celebrity Fan and Fan Catch.
Manager and Executive winners will be announced at the Winter Meetings in December.
Nominees were judged on their bodies of work from the entire year -- from Opening Day through the postseason -- and selected after a careful review of all 30 clubs. Winners in all 24 categories receive a Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) trophy.
Toronto's seventh inning against the Rangers also picked up a 2015 Esurance MLB Award for Best Trending Topic as the viral event that most captivated the baseball community.
Bautista's homer was the climax to that surreal scene north of the border. Moments prior, Toronto had been facing potential defeat when Russell Martin's throw back to the mound hit the bat of Shin-Soo Choo and allowed the go-ahead run to score from third.
Toronto was nine outs away from its season coming to an end, but instead, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom half of the seventh on three consecutive errors by the Rangers. Two batters later, Bautista delivered the final blow that, according to Statcast™, was projected to travel 431 feet and left his bat at 106 mph.
Josh Donaldson took home the Esurance MLB Award for Best Play, Defence, for his diving catch in the stands on June 24.