Donaldson, Beltre and baseball’s ‘Butterfly Effect’

Josh Donaldson left the game early after taking a knee to the head while breaking up a double play with a hard slide into second.

TORONTO, Ont. – Sometimes a game can turn on one play, on one pitch, but sometimes there’s a trickle-down effect through which an event that seems pretty small can lead to something pretty big. Call it baseball’s Butterfly Effect, and in in the Blue Jays’ ALDS-opening loss to the Texas Rangers, their first post-season game in 22 years, it played a pretty big part.

In the top of the first inning, Adrian Beltre drew a one-out walk from David Price and Prince Fielder followed by chopping a ground ball to second base.  That led to a cascade of events that wound up knocking Josh Donaldson out of the game and greatly reducing the Blue Jays’ chances to win.

Ryan Goins handled the Fielder chopper and flipped it to second to start an inning-ending double play.  Beltre slid into second to try to break it up, but instead of a smooth slide into the bag, he dropped fast and landed hard on his tailbone, jarring his lower back.

Beltre spent the next couple of innings stretching and looking uncomfortable out on the field – there are reports he may have gotten a cortisone shot in that time – and he was done after somehow hitting a line-drive single to centre in the top of the third that gave the visitors a 2-0 lead.  It appeared as though his back completely locked up as he hobbled to first, and he couldn’t continue after Fielder grounded out to end the inning.

Rookie Hanser Alberto had to come in to take over for Beltre, and handled the first ground ball hit to him with aplomb.  The next one, not so much.

The second grounder hit to Alberto was a textbook double-play ball off the bat of Jose Bautista in the bottom of the fourth. Alberto bobbled the ball, but recovered and made a good throw to second for a force out. The momentary mishandle made sure there was no relay to first to try to complete the double play, but it also meant something far more dire.

Because the throw to second was late, Josh Donaldson was able to close on Rougned Odor and break up any double-play attempt. But because Donaldson was able to close, he caught Odor’s knee with his forehead and had to leave the game an inning later.

Donaldson couldn’t answer the bell for his next at-bat, and with the tying run at third base and two out in the bottom of the fifth, Ezequiel Carrera came in to pinch-hit. He grounded out to end the inning and the Blue Jays managed just two hits the rest of the way.

It appears as though Donaldson will be able to get back into the series and Beltre won’t, but in this case, one all-star third baseman’s bad slide led directly to another third baseman’s unfortunate one and helped grease the skids for a Blue Jays loss.

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