Sunday afternoon in Arlington, things finally boiled over between the Rangers and Blue Jays. The two sides were involved in a pair of benches clearing brawls, the first of which involved actual punches being thrown.
These two teams, as I'm sure you remember, met in the ALDS last year and it was a very bitter series. Benches cleared and a war of words continued through the offseason. Here are the details of Sunday's brawl and everything that led up to it.
1. The bat flip heard 'round the world
Game 5 of the ALDS last year was totally epic. Especially the seventh inning, which was highlighted by Jose Bautista's monster three-run home run and legendary bat flip. Here's the highlight, which I'm sure you've seen many times before:
Benches cleared twice that inning, remember. Once immediately after Bautista's home run because Sam Dyson thought Edwin Encarnacion was showing him up when he was really trying to get the crowd to calm down, then later after the inning ended and Dyson said something to Troy Tulowitzki.
Several Rangers players said after the game they did not appreciate Bautista's bat flip. They were hardly the only ones who felt that way, but, since they were on the field for that homer, it hits a little closer to home for them.
2. Blue Jays vs. Rangers, round 1
The Blue Jays and Rangers met for the first time this season earlier this month. It was a four-game series at Rogers Centre in Toronto, and that series was played without incident. No intentional plunkings, no bases clearing incidences, nothing like that. The Blue Jays won three of four games. The retaliation waited until the two teams played in Texas.
3. Gibbons gets ejected to kick off Round 2
Round 2 was played this weekend in Texas. The two teams split the first two games Friday and Saturday, so Sunday was the rubber game.
The Blue Jays took a quick 1-0 lead in the second inning Sunday on a Michael Saunders single. In the third, with his team still leading 1-0, Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons was ejected by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna for arguing balls and strikes. To the action footage:
Gibbons thought the 0-2 pitch to Rougned Odor should have been called a strike, and you know what? He's probably right. Here is the PitchFX strike zone plot of the at-bat, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
Pitch No. 3 is the pitch in question. Ultimately it did not matter on the field. Odor struck out two pitches later, except this time Gibbons was a spectator in the clubhouse after getting tossed.
Ian Desmond doubled as the next batter to drove home the game-tying run.
4. Bautista clears the bases
The Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning, though the Blue Jays were able to knot things up thanks to a calamity of singles and errors and bunts. Here's the play-by-play for part of that sixth inning:
Kevin Pillar tied the game up with his fielder's choice, and Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases with two outs for Bautista. Bautista promptly untied the game with a bases-clearing double into the left-center field gap. You can see the video of the double right here.
The double gave the the Blue Jays a 5-2 lead. There was no bat flip or anything like that. Just high-fives and a long distance celebration between Bautista on second base and his teammates in the dugout.
5. Bush drills Bautista
Thanks to home runs by Adrian Beltre (solo) and Desmond (three-run), the Rangers were able to battle back and take a 7-6 lead in the seventh inning. Matt Bush, the former No. 1 overall pick who was recently called up after spending roughly three years in prison, was on the mound at the time, and was in line to pick up his first MLB win.
Bush started the top of the eighth by hitting Bautista with a pitch. Bautista, as you can imagine, sensed it was intentional given the history between the two teams, and was unhappy. Here's the video:
Keep in mind Bush was not even part of the Rangers organization during the ALDS last year. He was signed as a free agent over the winter. Assuming the beaning was intentional -- and it sure looked it was -- Bush was trying to win over his new teammates. I'm guessing it worked.
6. The take-out slide and the brawl
Bautista chirped at Bush following the plunking but ultimately took his base. Encarnacion followed with a fly out, then Justin Smoak banged into what looked like a tailor made 5-4-3 double play.
As retribution for getting hit, Bautista slid into second base very hard with a take-out slide, which nearly upended Odor. Bautista was called for interference because that slide is illegal, so the double play was awarded and the inning was over.
More importantly, Odor and Bautista got into it at second base. The two got in each other's face, Odor pushed Bautista, and then he punched him right in the jaw. Here's the video of the slide and the ensuring brawl:
Keep in mind that slide was legal until just last season. MLB rewrote the rules over the winter to make take-out sliders a bit safer. Punching? That's never been legal. I can't ever remember someone landing a punch as cleanly as Odor did on Bautista.
Notice that Gibbons returned to the field and got into a shouting match with Rangers manager Jeff Banister during the brawl. That's a big time no-no. Gibbons had been ejected earlier in the game and returning to the field ensures he will be disciplined by MLB. A fine is a certainty. Given the severity of the incident, a suspension is likely as well.
For their roles in the brawl, Bautista, Odor, Donaldson, and Rangers bench coach Steve Buechele were all ejected.
6a. This is not Odor's first rodeo
It should be noted this is not the first time Odor helped instigate a brawl, nor is the first time he threw a punch at an opposing player. Back in Class-A ball in 2011, Odor punched an opposing player who took exception to his aggressive take-out slide. Here's the video:
It sure seems Mr. Odor has a history of sparking brawls. Does that mean Bautista was right to slide hard into him as retaliation for being hit by the pitch? Of course not. But Odor is no innocent bystander.
7. Chavez retaliates
After everything calmed down and the teams returned to the field with the intention of playing the game, Blue Jays righty Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the very first pitch of the bottom of the eighth. The benches cleared yet again.
Here's the video of the second benches clearing incident, which did not involve any punches:
So in the span of two pitches between the end of the top of the eighth and the start of the bottom of the eighth, benches cleared twice between the Rangers and Blue Jays. Crazy.
Chavez was ejected, as was Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who had taken over as acting manager after Gibbons was ejected for arguing balls and strikes earlier in the game. Hale was automatically ejected because the two benches had been warned.
After all of that, the Rangers went on to win the game 7-6 (box score). It was the final meeting between the two clubs this season.
8. The aftermath
Needless to say, both sides had a lot to say after the game. Gibbons called the Rangers "gutless" for waiting until Bautista's final at-bat in their final meeting to deliver the retaliatory hit-by-pitch.
Gibbons: "It was gutless. We've played seven games ... the other 29 teams, if they have an issue with you, they come at you right away."— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) May 15, 2016
Bautista admitted he did not like being hit and said he went into second base hard intentionally, though he stopped short of trying to injure Odor.
It goes without saying there will be many suspensions handed down. Gibbons, Odor, and Bautista are certain to be suspended. Chavez will as well because he hit a player and was ejected after warnings were issued. Bush figures to get something for hitting Bautista as well.
This was, by far, the biggest benches clearing incident we've seen in a long time in baseball. Most brawls aren't actually brawls. There's maybe some shoving and stuff like that, but never any punches. Certainly none that land as cleanly as Odor's.
These two teams may not play again this season, but don't expect them to forget about this. It'll carry over into next season, or even the postseason should they meet in October again.