Feud reignites in Blue Jays-Rangers finale
Bautista's hard slide into 2nd sparks fracas in 8th inning
ARLINGTON -- The bad blood that has been building for months between the Blue Jays and Rangers spilled over into an ugly benches-clearing fracas in Texas' 7-6 victory at Globe Life Park on Sunday afternoon.
There were eight ejections in a game that saw the dugouts emptied twice in the eighth inning. The ill feelings date back to Game 5 of last year's American League Division Series, when Jose Bautista did his memorable bat flip that rubbed some Rangers players the wrong way.
Toronto and Texas met for the seventh and final time of the regular season Sunday. Everything seemed fine until the eighth inning, when right-hander Matt Bush hit Bautista with a pitch and everything escalated from there.
"Ugly and unfortunate," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "To me, it was gutless. We've played seven games ... the other 29 teams out there, if they have an issue with you, they come at you right away. To wait until the end, that just kind of tells me a little something."
Texas was leading by one run in the eighth when Bush started the inning by hitting Bautista with a 96-mph fastball. The two exchanged words, and there appeared to be verbal barbs between Toronto's slugger and the Rangers' dugout as well, but the game continued uninterrupted.
That changed two batters later, when Justin Smoak hit a grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who tried to get a forceout at second base. Bautista came into the base with a hard slide that was ruled a violation of MLB's new slide rule and made contact with second baseman Rougned Odor's leg. And even though Odor's throw sailed wide of first, the Rangers were awarded an inning-ending double play because of Bautista's illegal slide.
Before the play was over, Odor shoved Bautista with both hands and then punched him squarely in the face with his right hand as Bautista's helmet and sunglasses went flying into the air. The dugouts cleared and play was delayed for a lengthy period of time as the umpires tried to sort through the chaos.
Odor was not made available to the media after the game, and Bush said "no comment" when asked if his pitch to Bautista was intentional. Toronto's right fielder -- who also violated the new slide rule in a controversial manner on April 5 -- spoke his mind loud and clearly following the loss.
"[I was] pretty surprised, and obviously that's the only reason he got me," Bautista said of Odor's punch. "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.
"It shows at least the apparent lack of leadership they have over there when it comes to playing baseball the right way. Baseball plays are supposed to be taken care of by 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 just wanted to kind of send a message."
During the lengthy confrontation, Gibbons returned to the field and got into a heated war of words with Rangers manager Jeff Banister. The two had to be separated, and Gibbons likely will face punishment from Major League Baseball because he had been ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes. Blue Jays first-base coach Tim Leiper also was ejected in the the third after he appeared to be upset that Cesar Ramos was not called for a balk.
Bautista and Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson were ejected from the game at the conclusion of the incident.Odor also was tossed, as was Texas bench coach Steve Beuchele.
"That's kind of hard to say, there were a lot of things going on," Banister said, when asked what happened during the fracas. "It looked like a hard slide into second base. These are two ballclubs that obviously are playing hard to win baseball games and are emotional.
"But as far as what happened inside the scrum out on the field, there were a lot of things going on. We could sit here for the next hour and talk about that, but I don't have that time."
The dugouts cleared again in the bottom of the eighth when Toronto right- hander Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the first pitch of his at-bat. Chavez was immediately ejected from the game as players came running onto the field again. Toronto bench coach DeMarlo Hale also was automatically tossed because warnings had been issued to both sides.
"It's the game, you never know what the other team's going to do," said Beltre, who held Bautista back after the altercation with Odor. "I thought after the warning we were going to be OK, and they decided to hit [Fielder]. They're entitled to do whatever they want, obviously. Nothing surprises me."