Thanks to a towering home run by Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays are heading back to the ALDS. More importantly, they’re headed for another matchup with the Rangers.
Toronto and Texas aren’t traditional rivals, but they’ve had the most heated beef in baseball for the past year. It’s a bit complex, so let’s break down how it got to this point.
2015 ALDS Game 5 — Odor scores on controversial call
Yes, Jose Bautista hit a monstrous home run in this game, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The seventh inning of Game 5 was about as crazy as a baseball game can be. The drama started with one of the strangest plays you’ll ever see in baseball. Russell Martin was trying to throw the ball back to his pitcher when it deflected off Shin-soo Choo’s bat. Rougned Odor crossed home plate as the go-ahead run.
What followed was a delay of more than 12 minutes while the umpires tried to wrap their heads around the situation.
During the delay, Toronto fans tossed beer cans and other trash on the field. One man was arrested after he threw a beer that nearly hit a baby.
So tensions were already running high when Jose Bautista came to bat in the bottom of the inning.
2015 ALDS Game 5 — Jose Bautista’s home run
Texas opened the Blue Jays’ half of the inning by making three consecutive errors. A blooper over the head of Odor (which wasn’t called an error) allowed the tying run to score and brought Bautista to the plate with two runners on.
You know what happened next.
The benches cleared after the homer and again after the end of the inning.
After the game
Bat flips are frowned upon in North America, for some reason, so Bautista received plenty of hate. Rangers reliever Sam Dyson, who gave up the big dinger, wasn’t happy with the exuberance.
“Jose needs to calm that down, just kind of respect the game a little more,” Dyson said. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game, and I mean he’s doing stuff that kids do in Wiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done.”
He wasn’t the only one.
“It’s hard to be politically correct, but you want to be able to play the game the right way,” Hamels said. “You’ve got a lot of kids who are watching. You just want to be a ballplayer, and I think there’s a certain amount of respect that you’ve got to have.
“We understand there’s a huge level of excitement when things go your way. Sometimes, in the moments you forget about it. I can’t answer for him what his mindset was, but it is tough to see.”
“My perspective on that is we play the game the right way, hard, all 27 outs. We respect everybody.”
May 2, 2016 — The uneventful reunion
The Rangers returned to Toronto for a four-game series early this May. And nothing happened. Texas won the first game and lost the last three, two of them in walk-off fashion. There was speculation before the series about the prospect of revenge, but nothing happened.
May 15, 2016 — The punch
When the teams met again two weeks later in Texas, tempers boiled over. The catalyst was manager John Gibbons’s ejection in the third inning of the rubber game of the three-game series. Or was it Bautista’s three-run double in the sixth? Or maybe things didn’t really get going until Matt Bush plunked Bautista in the seventh.
Bautista retaliated by taking out Odor with a harsh slide on a double play ball, leading to the most recognizable image of the baseball season.
There was also speculation that Odor attempted to hit Bautista with the throw.
Odor received an eight-game suspension for leveling Bautista. It was the final regular-season game between the two teams.
What they’re saying now
During Tuesday’s Wild Card game, at least one Toronto fan made it clear he wanted a chance at revenge.
Dyson isn’t interested in reliving last year’s circus.
Rangers closer Sam Dyson, a year after being bat-flipped, was hostile to questions about it. “I’m not answering questions about last year.”
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) October 5, 2016
“Boy, isn’t that fun?” Banister said of the rematch Wednesday on MLB Network Radio. “We can look at this in different ways. We can look at it as another series, another year, which part of it is. It’s the playoffs and there is intensity. There always will be intensity and I’m glad there is, because that’s what competition is all about.”