Jose Bautista's big day gives Jays fans something to cheer
With a 19-27 record, not much has gone right for the Blue Jays thus far, largely due to injuries and ineffectiveness on the part of the name-brand players they added this past winter. On Wednesday, mainstay Jose Bautista picked up the slack and carried them to victory almost single-handedly, going 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and driving in all of Toronto's runs in a 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Rays.
Bautista began his night with a first-inning RBI single off Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, plating Anthony Gose following a leadoff double. After the Rays scored twice in the third, he tied the game in the fourth with a 428-foot solo home run off Hellickson to left field, his 10th of the year. After that shot, one can't blame Hellickson for walking him in the sixth, the last time he faced him on the night.
The Rays took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth, but Bautista got the run right back with a game-tying homer to lead off the bottom of the inning, a 385-footer off Fernando Rodney, again to left field:
He came up again in the 10th following a Colby Rasmus infield single, a sacrifice bunt, a groundout and a walk. After falling behind 0-2, he poked a single to right field off Kyle Farnsworth, giving the Blue Jays their first walk-off win of the year.
To be fair, Bautista didn't do it all himself, though he did account for four of the team's seven hits and five of their 10 times on base. Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings of two-run ball for just his fourth quality start out of 10, lowering his ERA to 5.90.
Bautista is now hitting .275/.394/.572, good enough to rank fourth in the league in slugging percentage; his 11 homers rank sixth. Despite all of the team's other troubles — which include Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson on the disabled list, and four regulars with on-base percentages below .250 — his power showing has to be particularly reassuring for the Jays considering that he still has two years and $29 million guaranteed on his contract after this year. A torn tendon sheath in his left wrist limited the 32-year-old slugger to 92 games last year, just two after July 16, and he missed seven of the team's first 17 games in April with ankle and lower back injuries.
He's played in each of the team's last 30 games, and while his continued presence hasn't made a tremendous difference for the Jays, they are on a little bit of a roll, having won nine of their past 15 games and three of their past five series. They're still last in the AL East, nine games behind the division-leading Yankees, five games behind the fourth-place Rays, and six-and-a-half out of a wild-card slot. On the other side of the coin, it's worth noting that Rodney, who saved 48 games in 50 opportunities while yielding just nine runs (five earned), two homers and 15 walks in 74 2/3 innings, has already surpassed many of those numbers this year. He has now blown four out of 13 save opportunities and surrendered 11 runs (all earned), three homers and 17 walks in 18 1/3 innings. He may need to review video with pitching coach Jim Hickey to find the exact angle at which he was wearing his cap last year.