The benches and bullpens cleared in the eighth inning of the Rangers-Blue Jays game Sunday afternoon after a hard Jose Bautista slide into second base led to a good old-fashioned base-brawl.
Before players from either team could intervene, Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor landed a hard punch square in Bautista’s cheek, knocking off Bautista’s helmet and sunglasses.
The Jays and Rangers, remember, met in last season’s playoffs, during which Bautista unleashed the most controversial bat flip in MLB history. Sunday’s game marked the final meeting between the two teams this season, and when Bautista came to the plate in the eighth he was promptly beaned in the ribs by rookie pitcher Matt Bush.
On the next play, as the Rangers tried to turn a double play, Bautista flew into second base with a late slide. Odor and Bautista came together, which was a big mistake for Bautista:
Here’s a closer look at Odor’s punch. It certainly looks as if he’s spent some time working the heavy bag:
A replay of Bautista’s slide also made it appear that Odor was going for his head with his throw to first base:
Benches immediately cleared, some more punches were thrown, and several players on both sides were ejected. Later in the game, the Jays retaliated and hit Prince Fielder.
After the game (the Rangers won, 7-6, by the way), the conversation shifted toward the various violations of baseball’s unwritten rules. Bautista’s bat flip (itself a violation of the unwritten rules in the eyes of some) happened seven months ago, and yet the Rangers evidently hadn’t gotten over it. And they waited until their final meeting of the regular season to send Bautista a message, which the Jays especially did not like because it prevents them from being able to retaliate later in the season.
Toronto manager John Gibbons did not appreciate that the Rangers waited so long to retaliate. From Gibbons:
To me, it was gutless. The other 29 teams, they come at you right away, but to wait until the end, it just sort of tells you something.
And Bautista said he felt the Rangers played the game the wrong way:
It shows, at least the apparent lack of leadership that they have over there when it comes to playing baseball the right way.Baseball players are supposed to be taken care of with baseball plays. I thought it was pretty cowardly of them to wait until my last at-bat to do that in the whole series. They could have come out and done it, if they wanted to send a message. Again, it shows a little bit more of their colors.
What’s more, the Rangers were ahead by just one run when they went after Bautista, and there were no outs in the inning. Putting him on base could have cost them the game, which – again – feels like a lot considering this entire episode goes back to something that happened seven months ago. Rangers manager Jeff Banister insisted that Bush had not intentionally gone after Bautista.
Bautista gave Odor credit for the punch, though the compliment was pretty backhanded:
Bautista: “He got me pretty good so I have to give him that. But it takes a little bit of a bigger man, I guess, to knock me down” #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) May 15, 2016
Expect both Bautista and Odor to be suspended.
If we’re lucky, these two teams will meet again in the playoffs.