MacARTHUR: BLUE JAYS AND ORIOLES A RIVALRY RENEWED?
TORONTO - Fans old enough to possess a keen sense of Blue Jays' history must have smiled upon seeing Jose Bautista jaw at Orioles' reliever Darren O'Day on Saturday.
There was the thrill of the moment, absolutely, as Bautista had snapped a 2-2 tie with his full count, two out, two-run home run in the eighth inning, propelling Toronto to a 4-2 win over Baltimore and a 10th-consecutive victory.
O'Day received his comeuppance for his behaviour on Friday night when, after striking out Bautista to end a sixth inning rally, he turned toward the outfielder and began screaming what were assumed to be unpleasantries.
After Saturday's game, Bautista wasn't eager to play the accelerant to O'Day's pack of matches.
"I told him just to keep talking like he was (Friday,") said Bautista of his message as he trotted down the third base line. "He kind of ran his mouth a little bit after he struck me out. I don't know where that came from but I didn't appreciate it and I let him know that yesterday and that's a little reminder today that I didn't appreciate it."
As for personal history between the two, through an Orioles' media relations official O'Day wouldn't comment. Bautista pleaded ignorance.
"Not that I know of," said Bautista. "That's why I was caught off guard. I don't have a problem when pitchers celebrate getting a big out in a big inning but when you're staring at me yelling stuff and I can't really hear what you're saying, it upset me a little bit."
Could this little back and forth between a Blue Jays' star player and a usually dominant Orioles' reliever be the first sign of a rivalry renewed?
Maybe. After all, in order for a rivalry to exist both teams must expect success. Such a scenario is made possible by Toronto's recent winning stretch.
For the reader too young to remember the good old days and for the reader eager to take a trip down memory lane, a history lesson:
1989: The Blue Jays got off to a dreadful 12-24 start and replaced manager Jimy Williams with Cito Gaston.
Meantime the Orioles, under manager Frank Robinson, were in a period of renewal after some dreadful seasons that followed their 1983 world championship. Baltimore either was tied for the lead or held sole possession of the lead in the American League East every day from May 23 to August 31.
Thanks to winning summer months, including a 20-victory August, Toronto steadily climbed back into the race. Baltimore had remained relatively consistent, save for an 11-16 July.
By the time the Orioles came to the SkyDome for a season-ending three-game series, the Jays had a one-game lead.
Toronto won 2-1 on the Friday night to clinch a play-in tie for the division and then, thanks to a three-run eighth, won Saturday's game 4-3 to punch a ticket to the playoffs. That game is remembered for Tom Henke's game-ending strikeout of Baltimore's Larry Sheets, which he followed with a celebratory fist pump shown on Jays' highlight reels to this day.
1993: In its second season of existence, Oriole Park at Camden Yards played host to the All-Star Game.
Gaston, having managed the Jays to the 1992 World Series championship, skipped the American League squad.
Baltimore had a young right-hander by the name of Mike Mussina. Mussina, just 24 and in his second full season in the big leagues, was named to the AL pitching staff.
Gaston hadn't planned to use him unless the game went to extra innings.
In the ninth, with the AL cruising to a 9-3 victory, Mussina began to warm up in the bullpen. The hometown crowd assumed he'd be brought in to pitch.
It didn't happen. Gaston was vilified in Baltimore and heard jeers at Camden Yards for the remainder of his days as Jays' manager.
1996: Prior to the season, Pat Gillick, the only general manager the Blue Jays had known through to the end of 1994 and the man who had built the back-to-back world championship teams, was hired to the same post by the Orioles.
Not long after taking the job, Gillick signed Roberto Alomar away from Toronto and the Orioles would make the playoffs in both the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
2013: The rivalry dissipated in the late 1990s and through the 2000s. The Blue Jays and Orioles had become afterthoughts in a division dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox and later the Rays.
Last year, the Orioles made the playoffs and had a winning record for the first time since 1997.
No recounting of the Blue Jays' offseason moves and sluggish start is needed. But the club's current surge has it a game above .500 for the first time this season.
The atmosphere in Rogers Centre this weekend lends to the big game feel.
Both teams expect to win.
Mix in a little bad blood and you've got the recipe for a rivalry renewed.