Jose Bautista kept it in the park, but more importantly so too did Kyle Drabek.
It was a good turn of events for the Blue Jays, who increased their winning streak to six games with a 4-2 victory over the Tigers and just as importantly received an improved outing from their rookie right-hander who was in desperate need of one.
Bautista, meanwhile, didn’t blast any balls into the seats, but still carded two singles in his 2-for-5 night.
The outing was far from perfect — Drabek walked a career high six batters — but the seven innings matched his season high and he allowed just three singles and one run.
Thanks to a three-run eighth, Drabek earned his third win of the season and first since April 25. His performance was also the closest he has come to matching his 2011 debut back on April 2 against the Twins, where he allowed one run on one hit over seven innings.
“He really threw an excellent game,” manager John Farrell started off. “He really minimized the damage (in the first inning). You’re looking at a bases-loaded, no-out situation and to get out of that inning with just one run allowed says a lot about him but more importantly you look at the overall seven innings. I thought tonight he took a step forward in his own development — he pitched, he didn’t throw — and kept his emotions in check.”
Drabek, though, isn’t over his infatuation with the base on balls and of the six walks he posted, the back-to-back ones he delivered in the first inning were the ones that haunted him as it led to the lone Tigers run. Of his 113 pitches, 58 were balls and that ratio has to change. With 34 walks on the season, he leads the league.
“He has a way of putting people on base because of the walk,” Farrell said. “But what he did tonight, he didn’t let that filter into the next at-bat, he got a couple of key double plays and while for the most part while he might have battled a little bit of command issues from time to time he didn’t show it outwardly as much. I really think tonight was a step forward in the right direction.”
Drabek allowed just three singles in his seven innings and didn’t allow a big inning to brew, especially in the first.
For that he can thank his own ability and fellow rookie, catcher J.P. Arencibia, who is all of 25 going on 40.
“If you’re angry out there it will humble you quick,” Arencibia said of Drabek needing to channel his emotions in a positive way. “He’s starting to learn and that’s part of his maturing process. He’s learning that he needs to stick with it and not let one pitch or one inning or one at-bat make a difference on the next hitter. He’s getting better at that. Tonight he’d walk a guy and come back and that’s a big part of his maturing because he really hasn’t done that yet.”
After the first, Arencibia pulled Drabek aside and applied catching psychology 101.
“You have to joke with him, kind of loosen him up because he’s so intense,” Arencibia said. “He loosened up a little bit and went out there and did his job. I think he’s starting to realize that when he gets mad he’s not that good but when he’s out there calm and really being smooth that’s when his stuff is really good.”
In Monday’s performance, Arencibia lent a big helping hand.
ONE OF A KIND
With Bautista ripping the snot out of the ball of late and going on a home run binge, it brought out a couple of national writers based in the U.S. meaning Bautista was the topic of discussion in manager John Farrell’s pre-game session.
He was asked how Bautista compares to what he saw in Boston with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz?
“I’ve not seen anything like this,” Farrell replied, ticking off Bautista’s stats. “He’s worth the price of admission just to watch four at-bats, regardless of what ballpark. It’s pretty awesome to see what he’s doing.
“He’s squaring up so many pitches in so many different locations ... I’ve not seen anything like it.”
Pretty soon, the superlatives were flying out of the park at a record pace.
“It’s almost like he’s got an idea of what’s coming in terms of the pitch type and location,” Farrell continued. “He’s doing things that are extremely rare. We’re just glad he’s in our uniform.”
Then after listing his accomplishments in the clubhouse, of being the ultimate in being a team player and a leader, Farrell concluded: “He’s arguably the best player in the game right now.”
The way Bautista’s hitting the ball right now, that’s a statement of fact, not one for argument.
The fans who braved the chilly night at Comerica Park are in the know regrading Bautista and what he’s been up to.
In his first at bat in the opening inning, they booed him lustily — a sign of respect, a sign that he has arrived on a national level.
They only boo the best.