TORONTO – Jose Bautista and the Baltimore Orioles traded angry words on the field and exchanged public recriminations afterwards, as yet another pitch sailed behind the Toronto Blue Jays slugger, he responded with yet another home run, further inflaming an already heated rivalry.
Major League Baseball will surely consider issuing warnings before the clubs meet again Wednesday, as the latest series of events had accusations flying in all directions.
Rookie Jason Garcia threw an 0-1 fastball behind Bautista in the seventh inning of what finished as a 13-6 Blue Jays victory, three pitches later he homered, the all-star right-fielder pimped his way around the bases, several Orioles chirped him for doing it, and there was more yelling during the changeover before the eighth inning.
Given the growing history between the teams, which really picked up last September in Baltimore when Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph stepped on Jose Reyes’ hand on a play at the plate and Marcus Stroman threw at his head the next inning, something should be done to calm things.
Bautista cited Baltimore’s harsh criticism of Stroman last year in rejecting explanations that the 22-year-old Garcia deserved leeway for his inexperience, and suggested Orioles’ motivations were intentional.
"Stroman was a rookie last year, they didn’t seem to have a problem (criticizing him). It wasn’t OK for them even though Stroman was a rookie last year. Now that’s their defence, because this kid is a rookie? I don’t buy it," he said. "I think it’s all pretty well planned out and premeditated, and I think they hide behind the way their manager (Buck Showalter) acts and conducts himself on the field. They’re going to continue to keep doing that until something comes down from MLB."
Baseball officials acted swiftly in handing out punishments to Kansas City Royals pitchers Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera for throwing at Brett Lawrie of the Oakland Athletics over the weekend. Herrera, who threw at Lawrie’s head, got five games and a fine, while Ventura, who hit Lawrie, was fined.
As to whether he expected similar discipline, Bautista replied: "It doesn’t really matter to me. I doubt it, but we’ll see."
Bautista also homered off Darren O’Day under similar circumstances April 12 in Baltimore, which prompted much of his anger. Those two have a history dating back to 2013.
This time, three pitches after avoiding a 93 mph heater, Bautista ripped one over the left-centre field wall, watched it leave, flipped his bat, and then casually ran around the bases, only to be chirped at by Steven Pearce at first base and Ryan Flaherty at second. Once he stepped on home plate, Bautista glared into the Baltimore dugout before turning away.
"I’m an emotional player, I play with a lot of passion, you throw at me, I’m not going to forget," said Bautista. "If I get you right after then I’m going to enjoy it. And I did. I’ve got no regrets about it."
The Orioles didn’t take kindly to the slow walk – "You ain’t gonna sit there and pimp me. You pimp the pitchers, you’re pimping me too," said Adam Jones – and as Bautista headed out to right field for the top of the eighth, he said Jones "single-handedly started" an exchange that brought players to the edge of both dugouts, and prompted umpires to intervene.
"The only thing I heard was him saying that was bush league, or something, or another word that kind of sounds like bush league, because apparently I took my time when I hit the ball, when what I thought what was bush league or whatever adjective he used to describe the play was throwing behind me," said Bautista. "That’s what I thought, that was the bush league move, not me doing what I did."
Speaking with reporters later, Bautista interrupted a question about Jones’ comments by saying: "I couldn’t care less what Adam Jones is saying."
Bautista is also at a loss to explain why he keeps ending up an Orioles target.
"I don’t understand why they keep throwing behind us and hitting us," he said. "Ryan Goins got hit today all of a sudden. The guy (Garcia) is painting and hitting his spots, all of a sudden one fastball gets away and hits him square in the thigh, nowhere near the strike zone.
"For a team that complains and whines so much about when their guys get pitched inside, they should manage their pitching a little bit better."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to argue when home plate umpire Mark Carlson issued warnings to both teams after the pitch to Bautista, at one point using two fingers to illustrate the history between the teams.
He wasn’t buying the accident excuse either.
"The last time we played them O’Day threw a ball right behind them, we didn’t whine and cry," said Gibbons. "It’s just kind of odd. I know guys get a little wild in the big-leagues, but you don’t see balls thrown behind guys. That’s very, very rare and we’re tired of it, we’re tired of that, we’re tired of guys getting hit. It’s not good."
Later he added: "Two pitches behind him, two home runs – you wake up a sleeping dog, that can happen sometimes."
Whatever the case, the Blue Jays dugout was clearly galvanized by the incident, with several players still fired up by Bautista’s home run response. Coming on the heels of an angry exchange with the Tampa Bay Rays last week, when Marco Estrada hit Evan Longoria after Chris Archer hit both Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion, there is plenty to unite the group right now.
"When you’ve got to protect your guys, you get a little bit of an adrenaline rush out there in the mound because you have to hit him in the right spot," said Mark Buehrle. "You’re trying to protect your teammates, it’s a lot harder than people think it is, but warnings might be issued (Wednesday), I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve got a long season and a lot of games against these guys left."
Fourteen, to be precise, the intensity and emotion building each time out.