August 4, 1993. After getting hit with a Nolan Ryan fastball, Robin Ventura decides to take matters into his own hands by charging the mound. He ended up taking Ryan’s fist into his own head.
From that point on, the Nolan Ryan headlock on Robin Ventura was the single most indelible image in Texas Rangers baseball history.
Until May 15, 2016.
Yesterday’s punch in the face that Jose Bautista took from Rougned Odor that triggered a ten-minute fight, that triggered Prince Fielder getting hit with a pitch, that triggered another benches-clearing brawl, may have just supplanted the Ryan-Ventura Headlock as the Official Image of Texas Rangers Baseball.
While the stakes may not have been any higher in yesterday’s game than they were in the in the 1993 game, the passions sure were higher. Because the pain from eight months prior still lingered.
The Rangers suffered the most epic defensive breakdown in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, fuel by four misplays in a row, that allowed Jose Bautista to put the dagger in the Rangers heart with a game-deciding three-run home run, punctuated by the Bat Flip Heard Around the World.
The franchise identified only with the futility of being one strike away had just entered yet another line in its log of infamy.
But in the sixth inning, yesterday’s game seemed to have more in common with Game 5 than it did with the Ryan-Ventura game. Because it wasn’t about brawling, it was about bad baseballing.
The Rangers shoddy defense reared its ugly head once again. Odor misplayed a grounder, failed to cover first on a bunt, and Elvis Andrus misplayed a double-play ball which allowed the Blue Jays to tie the game and put the outcome into the hands of Bautista once again. He immediately hit a bases-clearing, three-run double to put the Blue Jays up 5-2.
Deja vu all over again. It was all way too eerily similar to The Seventh Inning of Game 5.
In Bautista’s next and final at-bat in the final game between the two teams, the Rangers decided to get revenge for Bautista’s bat flip. Matt Bush put a ninety-seven-mile-per-hour fastball into Bautista’s back.
The next play, while running to second, Bautista decided to get revenge for getting drilled for flipping his bat, with a hard, illegal slide right into a vulnerable Odor to break up the double play.
Odor didn’t like it.
Most baseball fights have all the teeth of homeless bum. That changed with one swing of Rougned Odor’s fist into Jose Bautista’s jaw.
And so did Nolan Ryan’s status as Tough Guy Poster Boy for the Texas Rangers.
Oh, the Rangers won 7-6 in the most thrilling game of the year.
Derek Holland (3-2, 6.09) vs. Sean Manaea (0-1, 11.37)
Game time: 9:05 pm
The Rangers have never faced Manaea.
How the Athletics hit against Holland.