In one of the more vicious baseball brawls in recent memory, Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista was hit with a devastating punch by Texas Rangers infielder Rougned Odor that ignited a brawl in the eighth inning on the Rangers’ 7-6 win Sunday.
Odor took exception to what he believed to be a late slide by Bautista at second base. The two exchanged words and Odor pushed Bautista, who moved toward Odor. The Rangers infielder then unleashed a hellacious right hand that connected flush on Bautista’s face, staggering the Blue Jays star.
"I was pretty surprised," Bautista said. "I mean, obviously, that’s the only reason that he got me and he got me pretty good, so I have to give him that. It takes a little bit bigger man to knock me down."
Bautista and Odor were ejected along with Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and Rangers bench coach Steve Buechele. Once order was restored, Blue Jays reliever Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the next pitch. Chavez was ejected after umpires had warned both teams earlier in the eighth inning when Bautista was hit by a pitch from Matt Bush.
"It was ugly and unfortunate," Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons said. "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. Everybody is going to say, `Oh, it was a one-run game. The ball got away.’ That ain’t going to fly."
Bush hit Bautista in the ribs with his first pitch of the at-bat. With Bautista on first, Justin Smoak hit a ground ball to Beltre, who threw toward Odor in the hopes of starting a double play. Bautista’s hard slide into Odor was ruled an automatic double play by the umpires, ending the inning.
"I think it was just two hard-nosed baseball teams that play the game hard," said Texas manager Jeff Banister, who exchanged words with Gibbons as the field was being cleared. "They like their club. We like our club. I take offense to everybody that thinks this is a game that shouldn’t be played hard, that it shouldn’t be played with emotion and intensity."
These teams have a history, dating to Bautista’s famous bat flip in last year’s AL division series. Bautista hit a dramatic, three-run homer in the seventh inning of a winner-take-all Game 5. His reaction to hitting the blast — standing at home plate, looking at the pitcher and then flipping the bat high in the air — became a point of contention in the baseball world. Traditionalists saw it as a moment of disrespect while new-school proponents loved the individuality of Bautista’s action.