Trailing by a run in the top of the eighth inning, Texas Rangers reliever Matt Bush drilled Jose Bautista in the ribs. Two batters later, Bautista went hard into second on a tailor-made double play ball and moments later, all hell broke loose.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor took exception to the slide, which was clearly designed to break-up the double play and prompted both an errant throw and an automatic out call on the new Chase Utley Rule, shoving Bautista and then planting a clean right hand on the jaw of the Blue Jays right fielder, igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Texas held on to win the game 7-6, but the final score is the last thing anyone wants to talk about in this one because these tensions run deep and there is a lot to debate (or maybe there isn’t) in this situation.
Things between the Blue Jays and Rangers got testy last year in the postseason, when Bautista launched a home run into left off Sam Dyson and executed “The Bat Flip,” but it seemed like cooler heads were going to prevail as nothing transpired when these clubs played four in Toronto earlier in the month or in throughout the weekend series.
And that’s where things get a little fishy as Bautista was hit (a) in his final at-bat of the series, (b) in the last game between these two teams in the regular season and (c) by Matt Bush, who is on a big league roster for the first time in his career, 12 years after being selected first-overall and spending three-and-a-half years in jail for various alcohol-related incidents.
While the Rangers, their fans and good-natured souls will say, “Why would we order a guy to be hit in the eighth inning of a one-run game?” others, like Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who was ejected early in the game for arguing with home plate umpire Dan Iassogna, Jays fans and those that refuse to believe in coincidences view this as a perfect storm for plunking Bautista as retribution for his bat-tossing antics from October.
Bush is trying to earn his place on a Major League roster for the first time in his career and the teams won’t cross paths again, so there is no chance of further retribution – at least not in the regular season – and he hit him in the exact spot you want to hit a guy if you’re intentionally throwing at him – right in the ribs. When one “gets away from you,” it generally doesn’t end up hitting a guy center-mass, like this one did.
Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez did retaliate once the dust settled and the game resumed, hitting Texas’ first hitter in the bottom of the eighth, Prince Fielder, getting ejected instantly.
What’s ironic is that teams talk all the time about wanting to play hard and Odor surely wouldn’t object to Bautista getting drilled in the ribs, but when he comes in hot with a slide at second – that didn’t even put Odor on the dirt – he’s shoving and cold-cocking Bautista, pissed off about the Toronto slugger playing hard.
While the game is done, the series is over and these two teams won’t play again unless they meet in the playoffs, don’t think this will be the last you hear of this incident.
Player of the Game: Jose Bautista
In addition to igniting the fracas that ensued to end the top of the eighth, “Joey Bats” also broke out of an RBI funk at the dish on Sunday, delivering a bases-clearing double to collect his first RBIs in eight games. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBI.
And yes, he’s also getting a nod for going in hard at second because the Chase Utley Rule is ridiculous and if you can still throw at guys intentionally, you should be able to slide into second looking to break up a double play without Rougned Odor punching you in the mouth for doing so. Plus Bautista gets props for not dropping like a sack of hammers when Odor hit him because the Rangers’ second baseman connected flush.
On Deck: It’s back home to Toronto for a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays and a battle of lefties in the opener. The Jays send J.A. Happ to the bump looking to continue his torrid start to the season, while Tampa counters with Drew Smyly.