ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays thought the bitterness from their rivalry with the Rangers was a thing of the past. Turns out they were wrong.
The bad blood between these two teams reached a new level Sunday afternoon during a pair of benches-clearing altercations. Two batters were hit, eight people were ejected and punches were thrown and landed in an ugly 7-6 Blue Jays loss at Globe Life Park.
All of it was apparently because of Jose Bautista's bat flip in Game 5 of the American League Division Series last fall. The Blue Jays might have expected some sort of retribution earlier in the season series, but after six games passed without incident, they felt like everybody had moved on.
"It shows at least the apparent lack of leadership they have over there, when it comes to playing baseball the right way," Bautista said after the game. "Baseball plays are supposed to be taken care of by baseball plays.
"I thought it was pretty cowardly of them to wait until my last at-bat to do that, in the whole series. They could have come out and done it if they just wanted to kind of send a message. It shows a little bit more of their colors."
Sunday's incident began in the eighth inning, when Rangers right-hander Matt Bush hit Bautista with a 96-mph fastball. Both dugouts were warned, but the game continued uninterrupted until two batters later, when Justin Smoak hit a grounder to third base.
Adrian Beltre threw to second for the forceout, and that's when Bautista came in with a hard slide that was ruled in violation of MLB's new rule. As a result, both Bautista and Smoak were ruled out in what became an inning-ending double play despite a wide throw to first from Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. That fact was easy to overlook because of what happened at second base. Bautista made contact with Odor's legs, but that was only the start. The two players went face to face before Odor pushed Bautista with two hands and then punched him squarely on the jaw with his right fist.
The dugouts quickly emptied, and things went downhill from there. There was a pile of players on the field at one point and bodies being pushed and tossed in every direction. It was chaotic and it was dangerous, but the Blue Jays felt they had to respond.
"This is a pretty tight-knit group, probably like they're saying over there, they're a close-knit group as well," said Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was ejected after the fracas. "We feel like we have to protect our guys, especially when something like that happens. It's kind of an unfortunate incident for everybody. With that being said, we have to turn the page and get ready for our upcoming series."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons likely will face disciplinary action from MLB after he returned to the field when the dugouts cleared. Gibbons was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna, but he was back out there in the eighth inning and exchanged words with Rangers manager Jeff Banister.
Right-hander Jesse Chavez also should expect to hear from the league after he hit Prince Fielder with a fastball in the bottom of the eighth. The obvious retaliation move led to the second benches-clearing altercation of the game. Chavez and Toronto bench coach DeMarlo Hale were automatically ejected because warnings had been issued to both sides.
The list of ejections from the game was long and included Bautista, Donaldson, Chavez, Gibbons, Hale and first-base coach Tim Leiper. On the Texas side, Odor and bench coach Steve Buechele were also tossed.
"That's my team out there," Gibbons said when asked about returning to the field. "I didn't want to sit here and drink too much wine. I'm sure the league will say something about that, but it's kind of a manager's responsibility I thought. You try to be a mediator and settle things down. It's viewed differently by different eyes."
Gibbons also took exception to the timing of the pitch from Bush and let the Rangers know it before he walked off the field. After the game, he had calmed down but still had a message he wanted to send to Texas and the rest of the league.
"To me, it was gutless," Gibbons said. "We've played seven games ... the other 29 teams out there, if they have an issue with you, they come at you right away. To wait until the end, that just kind of tells me a little something."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.