Jays trump Brewers in Jose Bautista's return to lineup

Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays makes contact against the Milwaukee Brewers during MLB...

Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays makes contact against the Milwaukee Brewers during MLB action at the Rogers Centre on July 1, 2014. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:55 PM ET

Jose Bautista had a Canada Day present to the fans — himself.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger had been absent from the lineup — save for a pinch-hitting appearance on Sunday — for the past eight games after tweaking his right hamstring in Cincinnati.

But here he was back in the lineup as the DH.

With Bautista missing and Brett Lawrie on the DL with a fractured right finger suffered in the same game against the Reds, the Jays have been scuffling as they went 3-5 without the two stars.

His teammates were hoping his return would provide a spark, a jolt to the lineup and Bautista didn’t disappoint as he drilled a solo home run in the first inning before a crowd of 45,084 to help lead the Jays to a 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

While Bautista’s return provided some much-needed offence, Drew Hutchison came up with a gem on the hill to shut the door on the surprising Brewers, who sport the best record in baseball.

Hutchison has had a miserable time at Rogers Centre this season — he entered the day 1-4 with an 8.13 ERA in six starts — but on Tuesday he was brilliant. Over seven innings, he allowed the one run on three hits, while walking two and striking out 10, which was a career high.

Hutchison had a perfect game going through 4.2 innings before Khris Davis reached on an infield single with two out in the fifth. His shutout bid was lost in the sixth on a two-out RBI double by Ryan Braun.

In the seventh, he walked Carlos Gomez, who stole second and advanced to third on a 6-3 ground out by Aramis Ramirez.

Hutchison then hit Davis on the first pitch to put runners on the corners. Hutchison had Davis picked off at first, but in the ensuing rundowm Davis slid in safely to second, eluding Jose Reyes’ tag.

Hutchison, 6-6, got out of the jam as struck out Lyle Overbay, walked Mark Reynolds to load the bases and then retired Jean Segura on a fly to right to end the inning.

After Bautista powered the Jays into the lead, Colby Rasmus led off the fifth with a solo shot to make it 2-0. It was the 16th homer of the season for Bautista, No. 12 for Rasmus.

The Jays added two runs in the ninth on a RBI triple by Melky Cabrera and RBI double by Edwin Encarnacion.

Since opening June with a 5-0 mark, the Jays have gone 8-15.

“We’re an extreme team,” was how manager John Gibbons termed their fluctuations. “We had that stretch where everything was going right and then we’ve hit some of those lows where it’s just the opposite. Why it happens, nobody knows. But, we’re due to be a very good team again.”

Thanks to Bautista, they were on Canada Day.

Bautista may be back in the lineup, but he is still far from 100%, which is why he opened up as the DH and not in his customary spot in right.

“I’m just trying to be cautious knowing that I’m DHing and not playing the field,” he said before the game. “I’m going to get loose as much as I can but I’m not going to try and push it in batting practice and find out how fast I can run and risk anything. I’m going to continue to let the hamstring do what it’s doing and continue healing and hopefully I can get it loose and maintain my strength with the exercises that I’m doing inside that’s good enough for me to run the bases at a good rate of speed.

“The decision was made by Gibby to give me one or two days (as the DH) to kind of ease back into it. Then depending on how I feel tomorrow, to possibly play right field and if not definitely in Oakland (beginning Thursday) at some point.”

How tough will it be to not let adrenalin and the emotion of the game take over if he is on base?

“For sure, but knowing that is the only thing I have to worry about hopefully I can stay focused enough on running the bases well and not going all out. Not having to worry about defence and all those other things is certainly going to help.”

Bautista was also hoping the Jays would hop out to a quick lead – something that would take stress off him on the bases.

“Hopefully we can come out and score a couple of runs early and I don’t have to think ‘Maybe it’s a close game and I have to push it a little more than normal.’ That would be the ideal situation. Hopefully we’ll be the ones to score four or five runs early and not them. That would be a lot more relaxing for me on the bases.”

One thing he’s not going to do is push it and run himself back out to right field and on to the DL.

“If I feel well, there’s no restrictions,” he said. “It’s not if I want to play I’m going to make it worse. I think I’m old enough and disciplined enough to not risk playing defence too soon.”


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