Bautista homers again as Jays beat Yankees
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays batter Jose Bautista hits a home run against the Yankees during Monday's game at Yankee Stadium in New York City, New York. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/Reuters)
NEW YORK - He’s the “straw that stirs the drink.”
Reggie Jackson may have immodestly coined the phrase to describe himself when he was the big man in the Bronx but few have embodied the description more than Jose Bautista does with the Blue Jays.
Whether he’s blasting a home run, as he did in the first inning against Bartolo Colon, or quietly trotting to first after an intentional walk, it is ALL about Jose these days.
While spot starter Carlos Villanueva mesmerized the potent Yankee lineup on two hits over five innings, the Jays made New York manager Joe Girardi pay for taking the bat out of Bautista’s hands with a five-run sixth inning on their way to a 7-3 victory.
Villanueva, who earned the chance to fill the spot in Toronto’s rotation vacated by the injured Jesse Litsch by pitching brilliantly out of the bullpen, allowed a run in the fourth inning and nothing more, using 75 pitches to get through five innings and probably earning at least another chance to start.
Bautista casts a huge shadow over whatever strategy opponents employ against Toronto. He is easily the most potent individual force in the game just now and is the one Blue Jay no manager wants to let beat his team.
With that intent, Girardi walked into a knockout punch.
Corey Patterson led off the sixth for Toronto with a double to right centre. That brought Bautista to the plate and Girardi promptly called for the intentional walk. Cleanup man Yunel Escobar sacrificed both runners along and Girardi doubled-down by intentionally walking Juan Rivera.
That brought Aaron Hill to the plate and he responded to Girardi’s strategy by hitting Colon’s first pitch into left field for a go-ahead single. Coming a bit unglued, Colon then walked Eric Thames to make it 3-1.
J.P. Arencibia put the capper on Colon’s evening, ripping his first pitch for a three-run double into right-centre.
John Farrell trotted out his 41st different batting order in 47 games, still in pursuit of a lineup that will force teams to pitch to Bautista. The deep dark hole in the lineup behind the MLB’s leading home run hitter is making it easy for pitchers to pitch around him. Toronto cleanup hitters not named Adam Lind were hitting .216 (35-for-117) with no homers and eight RBI going into Monday’s game so Farrell pencilled Escobar into that role.
“For the time being with Adam still on the disabled list, we’re in a little bit of a state of flux and we fully recognize that,” Farrell said. “What’s become very apparent that we have to respond to is the way teams are approaching Jose. They’re taking the bat out of his hands. From a strategy standpoint, they’re not putting him in a position where he can affect the outcome of the game, particularly late in the game.”
For that to happen then pitchers have to be afraid that the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters can make them pay for putting Bautista on base. Last night, they did that and it paid a big dividend.
“We’re looking for combinations to address what’s being presented to us right now: A very clear-cut strategy with Jose. We’re trying to respond to that the best we can with internal options.”
Escobar was nominated because, with Lind out, he’s been Toronto’s second-best hitter behind Bautista. With Rajai Davis available and showing better on-base potential recently, Davis took over in the leadoff spot.
Davis did himself no favours last night. It’s enough that opponents don’t want to pitch to Bautista but, in the third inning, Davis made it easy for the Yankees.
Davis was on first base with one out and Bautista at the plate when he decided to try to steal second on a 2-2 pitch. He was caught stealing but either way, it was a boneheaded move because it gave the Yankees the option of walking Bautista whether or not Davis successfully stole second or not.
After Villanueva departed after five innings with a 6-1 advantage, relievers Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch, Luis Perez and Frank Francisco eventually wrestled the Yankees to the ground but not without a fight.
They scored a run in the sixth against Frasor and another in the eighth, charged to Rauch. Jays added on with a run in the seventh, combining Hill’s double with an RBI single by Arencibia, giving him four RBI on the night.