Jays take first of 10-game road trip

Blue Jays batter Corey Patterson is all smiles after hitting a three-run home run off Rangers...

Blue Jays batter Corey Patterson is all smiles after hitting a three-run home run off Rangers starter Colby Lewis in Arlington, Texas, April 25, 2011. (TIM SHARP/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:41 PM ET

If Jose Bautista is going to be all he can be for the Blue Jays, he's going to need more of the kind of help he got Monday.

The Jays offence, sluggish lately, erupted for six runs with two out in the fifth inning on their way to a 6-4 victory over the defending American League champion Texas Rangers.

With the rest of his teammates hitting wiffleballs, or just plain whiffing, Bautista's status as the hottest hitter in the American League has been going to waste. Worse yet, unless the Jays get more of what they got Monday, opposing pitchers are going to take the bat right out of Bautista's hands.

We saw evidence of that on Sunday when Tampa's James Shields all but refused to pitch to Bautista. Smart guy, Shields. Why on earth would he give Bautista anything to hit when the alternative -- a walk -- carries no downside?

"Shields had good command of three pitches and opted to pitch around Jose but we've still got to trust in our abilities and know that if it's not a good pitch, pass the baton to the next guy," said manager John Farrell.

Problem is, the guys behind Bautista keep dropping the baton. Adam Lind, the cleanup hitter, went into this series hitting .232 with an OPS under .600. With a guy who has a scorching hot .506 on-base percentage batting ahead of him, Lind has just 12 RBIs.

Unless Lind heats up and starts making some pitchers pay, then many more pitchers are going to follow the Shields plan and just concede first base to Bautista and take their chances with the rest of this team's offence.

Heading into this series, the Jays had just four wins in their most recent 14 games. During that period, Bautista hit five home runs and had an OPS of 1.229. As a team, however, the Jays had an OPS of .668 (including Bautista's numbers) and had struck out 117 times in those 14 games.

So, what will happen if they take the bat out of Bautista's hands and just keep walking him?

"In that case Adam is going to have plenty of opportunity," said Farrell. "If he can capitalize on the hole that opens up at first base when they choose to walk Jose, then it might alter the game plan against us."

Ya think?

Bautista is one of the rarest of hitters: A power guy with unwavering plate discipline and the good sense to take that walk when it's presented. But he requires teammates to accept the responsibility of driving him in.

"He's got a clear plan at the plate with great awareness inside of each at-bat," says Farrell. "Not only is he a dangerous hitter from a pure power standpoint, but when you combine that plan and awareness, he's in very rare company."

As if on cue Monday, with two outs and two on, Corey Patterson, Bautista and Juan Rivera each took Texas pitcher Colby Lewis out of the park to turn a scoreless tie into a 6-0 lead for rookie starter Kyle Drabek in a matter of about three minutes.

A sign of things to come? Or just a case of a pitcher throwing up all over his own shoes? Too soon to tell, but it was certainly a welcome sight in the Blue Jays dugout where there hasn't been a lot to get excited about lately.

Coming home

Early Monday afternoon, Frank Francisco was running in the outfield at Rangers Stadium, where he pitched for parts of five seasons. When he was done, he sauntered down the warning track and, by force of habit, headed for the Texas dugout.

"I was running back from the outfield," said the Blue Jay reliever, with a smile. "I wasn't thinking and I started down the steps into the Rangers dugout before I remembered."

Francisco still has a lot of friends here but he knows where his bread is buttered.

"When I get the opportunity to pitch, it will be just like facing anybody else," he said. "After the national anthem, they are my enemy."

As a member of the Rangers, in September of 2004, after teammate Doug Brocail went into the stands to confront a heckler, Francisco threw a folding chair into a group of fans. He hit a female fan who was cut for several stitches. Francisco was charged and pleaded no-contest. Later he settled a lawsuit brought by the woman, out of court.

Through it all, the Ranger organization stayed in his corner and Francisco hasn't forgotten that.

"I went through a lot and I learned a lot of things," he said. "I really appreciate what they did for me. They made me grow up. I have a lot of respect for them."

In a pre-game ceremony Monday, Francisco, whose resume includes the title of Rangers' clubhouse chess champion, was presented with his American League Championship ring earned with Texas last season.


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