TORONTO -- The first three games of a pivotal series between the Blue Jays and the American League-leading Royals had a playoff-like atmosphere. Sunday's finale, however, turned decidedly more intense.
Chin music was played, batters were hit and benches cleared in Toronto's 5-2 win at Rogers Centre that culminated with three ejections -- including Blue Jays manager John Gibbons -- and a heated exchange of words following the game.
The tensions had been building throughout the afternoon after Royals starter Edinson Volquez hit Josh Donaldson in the first inning and nearly plunked him again in the third with a pitch near his head.
Both dugouts received a warning from home-plate umpire Jim Wolf after Donaldson's hit-by-pitch in the first, which the Blue Jays' third baseman believes may have triggered the fireworks that later ensued.
"There was a warning given out after [Volquez] hit me in the first at-bat," Donaldson said. "Guys get hit all the time. You don't see warnings thrown out all the time, but the reason [Wolf] did it is because he knew just as well as I did, he hit me on purpose ... He could've thrown him out immediately right there, which I didn't want him to do. I thought he was pretty good hittin', so I don't want him out of there."
Matters escalated considerably a few innings later when Royals reliever Ryan Madson -- who was tagged for three runs in the Blue Jays' 7-6 win on Friday -- hit newly acquired All-Star Troy Tulowitzki in the arm with a 96-mph fastball. The next batter, Donaldson, was nearly hit again, prompting Gibbons' ejection after an animated discussion with Wolf.
"When you give a warning like that and you see balls continually thrown around the head area, and then a ball that hits Tulowitzki in the chest, pretty much, it's one of those things where you can't question intent anymore," Donaldson said. "There has to be repercussions for you giving a warning at the beginning, and I think that's where he went wrong at it."
Royals manager Ned Yost said his pitchers were simply trying a new approach after getting hit hard the first three games of the series.
"None of [the inside pitches] were intentional on our part," Yost said. "It's part of the game. [The Blue Jays] are as good an offensive team as you're going to face. They have tremendous power, but they all dive to the inside of the plate which makes them susceptible to inside pitches.
"If you continue to throw away, away, away, you're going to get hammered. You have to throw inside."
In the eighth inning, Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez hit Alcides Escobar, the third batter in the frame. Sanchez was tossed, and so was bench coach DeMarlo Hale after arguing the rookie's ejection. Benches cleared during the incident, but both clubs retired to the dugout without further incident.
"Absolutely," Sanchez said when asked whether he was surprised to get ejected. "Go back and look at the at-bat. The first pitch was right down the middle and the next two got away from me. I'm not the guy out there that's got perfect command, and you guys know that."
Emotions were still running high in the Royals' clubhouse after losing three of four in the set.
"He was crying like a baby," Volquez said of Donaldson, who homered twice and doubled three times in the series. "He's not Barry Bonds. He's got three years in the league."
The Blue Jays responded emphatically to the eight-inning uprising when Jose Bautista drilled a ground-rule double over center fielder Lorenzo Cain's head to extend Toronto's lead to 3-0.
Donaldson, who said Madson should have been tossed for plunking Tulowitzki, said the intense atmosphere was simply a result of two playoff-aspiring teams battling for a win.
Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, meanwhile, said after a week that saw Toronto acquire Tulowitzki and ace David Price, among others, perhaps the Royals were envious of the new-look Blue Jays.
"I think they're used to pushing people around. So when they come onto the playground and there's a kid that's bigger than they are for a day, I think it probably [ticks] them off. And I can't blame 'em. That's part of their swagger. That's part of what makes them good, and they compete hard ... You just can't ever take a moment off against a playoff-caliber team, and they are a playoff-caliber team."
Dan Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.