You might want to turn on Thursday night's game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves because there's a good chance of extracurricular activity after a string of emotional events on Wednesday that once again showed why Jose Bautista is the most disliked player in the game and the Blue Jays the most hated team.
Trailing 8-3 in the eighth inning, Bautista homered off Braves pitcher Eric O'Flaherty, flipped his bat, stared down the reliever and then had words with catcher Kurt Suzuki as he crossed home plate. That caused the benches to clear, although no punches were thrown.
Suzuki wouldn't say what was said, other than it was just something that happened in the heat of the moment. O'Flaherty was smiling as he joked about Bautista getting punched in the face last year by Rougned Odor:
#Braves' O'Flaherty on Bautista: "I'm surprised he's ready to fight again after last year. But he was throwing some looks around."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) May 18, 2017
Bautista, maybe realizing that pimping a home run that landed just a few rows into the left-field stands while down five runs is ridiculous even for him, tried to diffuse the situation after the game, saying "I understand why they would be upset," and that he didn't really mean anything with his antics:
Bautista: "Basically just let them know that I wasn't trying to show up anybody and hopefully it's in the past." #BlueJays— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) May 18, 2017
The staredown was just an accident! Right. Still, that might be the end of things except there was an earlier benches-clearing situation when Kevin Pillar got ticked off after striking out against Jason Motte, apparently upset that Motte quick-pitched him.
More significantly, Braves star Freddie Freeman left the game after getting hit in the hand by a pitch from Aaron Loup. Initial X-rays were inconclusive and he'll undergo more tests on Thursday. It was clearly an accident -- the pitch wasn't that far off the plate as Freeman simply failed to react from the inside fastball from the sidearmer -- so that could have also been the end of things, except that was the seventh time the Blue Jays have hit a Braves batter in three games of this home-and-home series.
The Blue Jays hit five batters on Monday, including Loup hitting Nick Markakis. They hit one on Tuesday. And then Freeman. Even if none were intentional, you can take only so much without feeling the desire for some revenge, especially if your superstar MVP candidate has suffered a long-term injury.
This isn't an anti-bat flips creed. I'm not against Bautista having fun playing baseball. But this wasn't him enjoying the moment; this was him being a jerk simply for the sake of being a jerk. It's an NBA player dunking and hanging on the rim when down by 35 points. It's celebrating a touchdown when you're losing by 28. It's ego over team. Enjoy the moment when warranted, not when on your way to getting creamed for the third game in a row.
Hey @JoeyBats19 when you're hitting sub Mendoza line, you shouldn't bat flip like you're God's gift to baseball. Grow up, sporty spice.— Cooks (@MitchCooksey) May 18, 2017
Oh, Manny! Another good game between the Orioles and Tigers, this time with a controversial ending. Manny Machado was up with two outs in the ninth against Justin Wilson, runners on first and third, the Tigers up 5-4. Wilson decided to go after Machado instead of pitching around him to face the lefty-swinging Chris Davis. While the lefty-lefty matchup would have been preferable, you hate to load the bases with no margin for error.
Anyway, Wilson went after him with all fastball. Machado checked his swing on an 0-1 pitch and first-base ump CB Bucknor ruled -- correctly -- that he didn't swing, although the Tigers did plenty of chirping from the dugout. On a 2-2 fastball up and away, Machado again checked his swing. Once again, Detroit catcher James McCann appealed to Bucknor, and this time Bucknor rung up Machado. The consensus: Machado did not swing, and it certainly wasn't one that batters get rung up on too often. So the Tigers' bullpen gets the save, with a little help.
Rangers are rolling: On May 8, the Rangers were 13-20. Now they're 21-20! That's eight wins in a row! Andrew Cashner got his first win in seven starts, even though his ERA is 2.45. That's not sustainable, as he actually has more walks than strikeouts and fanned just two against the Phillies on Wednesday, but the Rangers continue to get great results from the pitching staff. At the minimum, the return to playoff contention means the Yu Darvish trade rumors will die down for now. (Although you wonder what Jon Daniels might do in late July if the Rangers are 10 games behind the Astros and simply fighting for a wild card. What if the Yankees blow you away with a trade offer?)
I love stuff like this as well. Reliever Austin Bibens-Dirkx made his major league debut at 32. Not only as that an all-time name, but what a test of perseverance after spending 11 seasons in the minors, including parts of eight seasons in Triple-A.
Play of the day: We'll pretend those two miscues last week from Kevin Kiermaier never happened. You know, the two ground balls he turned into Little League home runs. He's still a Gold Glover. Well, him or Byron Buxton or Pillar or Lorenzo Cain. He ended the Rays' 7-4 win over the Indians with this catch:
WANTED: @KKiermaier39.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 17, 2017
HE IS A NOTORIOUS OUTLAW. pic.twitter.com/BGPsm0tKA8
Awesome fun fact of the day: Good job, Padres!
I really hope that everyone can read and enjoy this Petco Park Fun Fact. pic.twitter.com/xNxa9WxBfc— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) May 18, 2017
Quick thoughts ... I feel like I haven't mentioned Clayton Kershaw in these nightly wraps, but what is there to say? He's still the best. He threw an easy seven scoreless frames against a terrible Giants lineup that featured Eduardo Nunez hitting leadoff with a .287 OBP; Justin Ruggiano, a rookie hitting .209 batting third; Michael Morse; Mac Williamson; and Gorkys Hernandez. I don't know if that would be a good lineup in the Pacific Coast League. ... Kershaw's career ERA at AT&T is 1.29. ... Jose Altuve had his first four-hit game of 2017 after recording eight such games last season. ... The hitting stars for the Rangers were Jared Hoying and Delino DeShields, the eight and nine hitters, who each got four hits. The last time that happened for the Rangers? Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez in that infamous 30-3 win over the Orioles in 2007. ... Albert Pujols left the game for the Angels with some type of leg injury. Get this: He has a .663 OPS, but is on pace for 121 RBIs. The most RBIs for a player with an OPS that low is Tony Bautista with 99 in 2003. Don't let the RBI total fool you, Pujols isn't helping the Angels. ... Strong outing for Gerrit Cole to beat the Nationals. The Pirates need more of this because he could be prime trade bait. ... Mike Trout homered again. That's five in six games. Trout is good at baseball.