There was a brief point in the 5th inning where tempers flared between the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and don’t be surprised if it happens again this weekend.
In case you missed it, the dust up happened during the Blue Jays’ 9-run 5th inning, and not long after Hansel Robles had entered the game to relieve Nate Eovaldi for Boston. In his second at-bat of the inning, Randal Grichuk was hit on the elbow by an errant fastball from Robles, and it looked like some of the Blue Jays thought it might have been intentional. The plunking had come on the heels of a home run from Lourdes Gurriel Jr., followed by a loud single from Alejandro Kirk, which was hit second hit of the inning, so the timing was certainly suspect. Charlie Montoyo even made his way out of the dugout and talked with the umpires about it, showing a rare moment of anger and frustration.
The situation wasn’t really diffused much from there when the umpires decided to issue a warning to both sides after talking with Montoyo, much to the chagrin of the Blue Jays. To be fair, they hadn’t done anything other than bark a bit about Grichuk being hit, which is a pretty common occurrence. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and in the end everybody settled down and the game finished without further incident. Randal Grichuk even told reporters after the game that he had spoken with a few of the Red Sox and was told that Robles did not intentionally hit him.
All that being said, I feel like that was just some kindling for what could be a fiery weekend between the two AL East contenders. The Red Sox are on their heels having lost eight of their last eleven, and the Blue Jays are charging fast after starting their home stand with a 7-1 record. The gap between the two teams is now just 4.0 games in the East standings, with Tampa Bay at the top (2.5 over Boston, 6.5 over Toronto), and the Yankees sandwiched in between. These games are extremely important to both teams, and the Red Sox frustration is likely reaching a bit of a boiling point.
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Another thing that could lead to some fireworks would be another blowout victory like the one we saw on Friday. It’s become a common theme between the two teams this season, with the Blue Jays continuing the story with a 12-4 win in the first game of this series. They’ve also collected wins of 13-1 on July 29, 18-4 on June 13th, and 8-0 on May 10th. The Red Sox have returned the favour too, winning 13-4 on July 19th, and just as frustrating, stealing a few late victories from the Jays earlier in the year by beating up on their vulnerable bullpen.
Maybe I’m being bias here, but I’d be surprised to see the Red Sox blow out the Blue Jays here in the final three games of their season series. I mostly say that because the Blue Jays have Robbie Ray, Jose Berrios, and Hyun Jin Ryu lined up to pitch against them, and those three are all top-tier pitchers who can generally keep the game close. The Red Sox on the other hand will counter with rookie Tanner Houck, Canadian Nick Pivetta, and the struggling Garrett Richards. Ahead of the start of this series, I wrote about why the Blue Jays were getting the Red Sox at the right time, and the recent rotation woes are a big reason why.
I’m not suggesting that Red Sox are a bunch of pouters who are going to throw a fit if they lose, but I’ve seen the reality of the situation they’re in many times before and it’s not hard to get tempers flaring. When you combine that with a young Blue Jays team that clearly has something to prove to a team they’re chasing in the standings, and it won’t take much before players are spilling out of the dugouts to puff their chests out.
99% of the time it amounts to nothing more than some shouting back and forth in order to follow some of the unwritten rules of baseball. That said, don’t be surprised if emotions run high again at some point over the next three games.