TORONTO – Things turned ugly quickly Monday night as the Blue Jays and Yankees emptied the benches twice and went at it in the second inning after a string of hit batsmen.
By the time the dust had settled in the second inning, the sellout crowd at the Roger Centre had watched a melee that turned into a rolling ball of angry players moving across the infield before order was finally restored.
It started in the first inning when New York starter Luis Severino hit Josh Donaldson on the elbow. Then Toronto starter J.A. Happ took aim at Chase Headley, the first Yankee to go to the plate in the second with the game tied at 1-1. It took Happ two pitches to make contact with Headley — he just missed on the first attempt, throwing behind Headley.
Both benches and bullpens emptied but there was no real venom. The umpires cleared the field and the game continued.
Severino then raised the stakes by throwing inside at Justin Smoak to open the bottom of the second. He missed but hit Smoak on the leg with the second pitch.
That prompted another pitch invasion — with Smoak and Severino squaring up — and there was bad intent this time.
Donaldson and outfielder Kevin Pillar left the Jays dugout like Usain Bolt. By the end of the melee, catchers Gary Sanchez and Russell Martin had to be separated. And Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit was seen limping off the field.
Severino was immediately thrown out. His night lasted 34 pitches. Jonathan Holder, who started warming up after just one out in the game, came on in relief.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bench coach Rob Thomson were also thrown out.
Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and a junkyard dog type of ball-player, has had some close calls at the plate.
In August, he was hit in the head by Kansas City Royals closer Kelvin Herrera but escaped unscathed when the ball hit his ear flap.
While the Jays have been steadily improving in their playoff push, the Yankees have been sinking fast. Toronto won the first three games of the Yankees series, blanking New York the first two outings.