The Toronto Blue Jays have not even made the post season yet but there was an unmistakable playoff fervor surrounding their game Monday night against the New York Yankees.
Accusations of pitchers throwing at batters, cat-calling amongst the players – not to mention two bench-clearing incidents in the same inning will certainly draw the attention of Major League Baseball disciplinarians when they go over the reports of this one on Tuesday.
And not only did the Blue Jays lose a big game – 7-5 to the Yankees, who rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth to shock Toronto – but the club is also concerned after two of their key players came up lame in the contest.
Although the Yankees came out on the right end of the contest to avoid the embarrassment of losing four straight in the series to Toronto, the win still left a bitter taste.
Afterward, New York third baseman Chase Headley said it is one thing for the Blue Jays to behave like they are the "Kings of Fun," referencing Jose Bautista's infamous bat flip from a year ago in the playoffs.
But he said sometimes the behaviour of the Toronto players is hard to take.
Headley said in Saturday's game, Toronto starter Marcus Stroman "was screaming…yelling at guys to get off the field" after striking somebody out.
"They've got a lot of guys over there that have a lot of bravado, if you want to call it that," he said. "They enjoy it when they hit home runs, they enjoy it when they get outs. It rubs guys the wrong way sometimes."
It certainly did Mark Teixeira, the New York batter who admitted to yelling "blown save" to Toronto reliever Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth inning after his leadoff home run erased a 3-2 Blue Jays lead.
""We were just having fun," Teixeira said. "There was a lot of emotion in the game."
Taken all together, this is not exactly the type of sendoff that the Blue Jays were looking for heading into a huge American League wild card showdown that will begin at home Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.
Toronto heads into the three-game series holding a one-game edge over the Orioles for the top wild card berth with the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners lurking dangerously behind.
"We're going to come back (against Baltimore) ready to go," ensured Toronto starter J.A. Happ, who was denied his 21st victory of the season in the loss against the Yankees.
On their part, the Blue Jays were upset after Josh Donaldson, the league's most valuable player from a year ago, was grazed by an inside pitch from Luis Severino in the first inning that laid the foundation for the ill will that was to follow.
"Teams have been taking pot shots at us all year long and guys were just getting tired of it," Toronto manager John Gibbons groused after the game.
In the top of the second inning, Happ plunked Headley, who was leading off, in the rump with his second pitch, which led to the emptying of both dugouts and bullpens for the first time.
Both teams were issued warnings from home plate umpire Todd Tichenor but that did not deter Severino from nailing Toronto's Justin Smoak in the leg leading off the bottom of the second.
That led to another benches-clearing incident and resulted in the ejection of Severino, New York manager Joe Giradi and two members of his coaching staff. During that fracas, Severino threw his glove at Kevin Pillar.
"That's just kind of the unwritten laws of baseball," Toronto catcher Russell Martin said. "You hit one of our guys, our MVP guy, after that sometimes the ball slips out of the pitcher's hand and for some reason it's even. That's kind of how the game goes."
What the Blue Jays were not counting on were two of its players coming up lame.
Reliever Joaquin Benoit, who has been a solid influence in the Toronto bullpen since he joined the Blue Jays in a trade deadline deal at the end of July, was limping noticeably after the second of the on-field incidents.
Nobody on the Blue Jays would – or could – say for certain what happened. But Benoit's injury was such that he had to be helped off the field by pitching coach Peter Walker.
And Devon Travis, who got the start at second base, exited the game in the top of the sixth inning after experiencing some sort of an issue with his surgically repaired left shoulder that sidelined him a large portion of the 2015 season.
Toronto manager John Gibbons did not yet have any details on the extent of either injuries when he spoke to the media after the game.
He said had some sort of a leg injury that might be similar to the calf injury sustained last season by Brett Cecil in the playoffs against Texas.
As for Travis, he said the only thing he knew is that the second baseman was experiencing trouble swinging the bat.