Typically, Flashback Fridays are reserved for events from Toronto Blue Jays yesteryear. But I just could not wait another week to reflect on one of the greatest games and moments in recent Blue Jays history.
For this week’s Acid Flashback Friday, we look back at Jose Bautista’s epic staredown home run against the New York Yankees from August 23rd of last year.
Let me begin by saying this was probably the best Blue Jays game I have been to … ever. It had everything: great pitching, home runs, and a bench-clearing incident which nearly lead to a brawl with the Yankees.
None other than Golden Arm from 1 Blue Jays Way and myself watched it all unfold from section 114. In fact, we have a pretty impressive streak going: in back to back games where we were sitting in the same section, Jose Bautista hit 4 home runs total, 2 in each game.
To fully grasp how epic Jose Bautista’s home run was off David Robertson, you have to understand the back story leading up to that fateful at bat.
In the bottom of the third inning, Bautista put the Blue Jays on the board with a 2-run home run off Ivan Nova. It was his 39th of the season, and at that moment I had a feeling something special was going to happen that night.
Jose Bautista’s next at bat against Ivan Nova came in the bottom of the sixth inning. In his first pitch of the at-bat, Bautista slammed a foul ball into the upper deck. I guess Nova was none too pleased with that, because his 1-1 pitch to Bautista buzzed right past his head.
Nova claimed he wasn’t trying to hit Bautista, but my suspicion is Nova was trying to throw Bautista off his game. Subsequently, the benches cleared and the Yankees and Blue Jays nearly came to blows.
With tensions nearly boiling over on the field, here’s what Bautista had to say about the incident (courtesy of the Toronto Sun):
“Instinctively, I was kind of upset. I was just trying to see what kind of reaction I was going to get (from Nova). I was surprised to see he was pretty defiant; he was walking up toward me and was flashing his hands up and yelling. That’s when I felt that the pitch was intentional.
If he would have thrown at my foot, or my leg or my back, it would have been totally different. The pitch was right at my head and it got me pretty upset.”
What surprised me the most about the incident was Ivan Nova’s cockiness. I mean, I would expect that from somebody like Roger Clemens, but a rookie like Ivan Nova? Show some respect to your elders, young man.
Bautista ended up flying out in that at bat, but the atmosphere at the Rogers Centre at that point was palpable. And with a tied game at 2-2 going into the eighth, Jose Bautista was ready to blow the roof off of the stadium.
David Roberston was pitching in relief for the Yankees and began the inning by striking out John McDonald. Jose Bautista stepped into the box and must have been aching to make the Yankees pay for brushing him back.
What happened next was nothing short of spectacular. Jose Bautista took a 2-2 fastball and sends it over the fence to put the Blue Jays ahead 3-2 in what was the greatest home run by a Blue Jay in recent memory.
Rather than let his emotions get the better of him after the brushback from Ivan Nova, Jose Bautista retaliated the best way he knew how … with his bat.
After pausing for a moment to staredown David Robertson, Jose Bautista pimped that home run and savoured the moment taking a total of 28.7 seconds to round the bases.
When asked if he took his time trotting around the basepaths because he had just socked his 40th home run of the year, Bautista responded with this explanation (courtesy of Sportsnet.ca):
“I don’t think it was because it was No. 40, it was a tight game, pretty late. I knew that if we took the lead we needed three outs to win, and given what had transpired out there, I enjoyed it pretty good.”
There were so many amazing parts to that home run: the staredown, Bautista dropping the bat in the batter’s box, and his shaking of his fist as he crossed home plate in celebration of the home run.
The optics of the home run is what made it so memorable: it was a tied 2-2 game in the 8th inning, it was against the rival New York Yankees, it was Bautista’s 40th home run of the season, and it was after one of their pitchers tried to send a message to Jose Bautista.
In what was perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, I released this tweet just prior to game time in hopes that maybe Jose Bautista would hit number 39 and 40 while I was in attendance at the Rogers Centre:
Thankfully, Joey Bats graciously obliged and I will never ever forget that game for the rest of my life.
In the grand scheme of things, there wasn’t much on the line that night for the Blue Jays in the way of making up ground on the Yankees. But there was something much more important at stake: pride.
And when the Yankees challenged Jose Bautista’s pride, he responded with a giant “f*ck you”.