Texas manager dismisses notion of intentional plunking of Bautista
By Dave Sessions
Special to MLB.com |
ARLINGTON -- After Sunday's 7-6 comeback victory over the Blue Jays, the Rangers were eager to talk about what a big win it was for them and how much it meant to win the series at home. They weren't as eager to discuss the melee between everyone in uniform on both teams near the end of the game -- and those Rangers who did speak of the brawl did so cautiously.
They still had a touch of intensity still left over from the eighth-inning fracas that erupted when Jose Bautista slid high and hard into Rougned Odor, who pushed the Toronto slugger and then punched him square on the jaw before the benches cleared. But for the most part, the Rangers let the incident speak for itself, and they added little in the way of postgame analysis.
Manager Jeff Banister spent the first 2 1/2 minutes of his postgame news conference rattling off a list of things that happened before the fight -- how starter Cesar Ramos fared, how Matt Bush got them out of a bases-loaded jam, how Adrian Beltre's solo homer gave the team a spark after it fell behind.
"And you can look at the tape on the rest of it," Banister said.
The tape showed players, coaches and staff in a red-and-blue blur behind second base as umpires and players, including Beltre, tried to make peace and restore order.
"You don't want something bad to happen, you're always going to try to protect your teammates, obviously," Beltre said. "In that situation, I didn't want half the team to be suspended or thrown out of the game. … I was just trying to come back to the field and finish the game."
Before the dugouts emptied, Bush hit Bautista -- who enraged the Rangers last fall with his infamous American League Division Series bat flip -- with a 96-mph fastball. Bautista tried to break up a double play a few minutes later with a slide that was ruled illegal, awarding the Rangers an inning-ending double play. Bautista was punched by Odor, who was not made available to the media after the game and will likely face a suspension from Major League Baseball.
"There were a lot of things going on," Banister said. "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. I've got a bird to catch."
Banister seemingly couldn't wait to leave the interview room and get on a plane to Oakland, but not before suggesting that Bush didn't hit Bautista on purpose.
"To me, this is a young man in his second appearance in the big leagues," Banister said. "I'm sure that there was adrenaline flowing, he's been here for a few nights, he's seen the intensity level [and is] nowhere near perfect. I'm not going to entertain the thought that that was anything other than we're trying to get outs. To think that we're going to put the tying run on base on purpose? I'm sorry."
Bush wasn't with the Rangers when Bautista crushed them with the go-ahead three-run homer in Game 5 of their ALDS matchup and then theatrically flipped his bat toward the Texas dugout. Bush said he was watching, though.
"I was rooting for the Rangers the whole way," said Bush, who declined to comment on the pitch that hit Bautista.
After the teams settled following the fight, Blue Jays reliever Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with the first pitch and nearly caused another situation. This time, the players streamed out of the dugout but were chased back by the umpires.
"I thought after the warning we were going to be OK, and they decided to hit him," Beltre said. "They're entitled to do whatever they want, obviously. Nothing surprises me."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.