Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jose, Jose, Jose Again

It was precisely four weeks ago to this day that I last posted.

For this, I apologize. In my defense, let me say that I'm a victim of circumstance. The combination of finishing school, undergoing two dental procedures and beginning summer employment temporarily incapacitated me from writing.

But today's absolutely ridiculous performance from Jose Bautista was more than enough to get the fingers typing, effectively ending my month-long sabbatical.

In case you were unaware, Jose Bautista blasted three homeruns today at Target Field -- a pitcher's park that has become, rather inexplicably, Bautista's new unofficial home away from home -- to lift the Blue Jays to an 11-3 victory over the scuffling Minnesota Twins to complete the sweep of the weekend's three-game series, and extend Toronto's winning streak to five games.

The right-fielder continues to push the boundaries of what human baseball players are capable of, and with today's performance increases his Major League-leading homerun total to 16 on the year. And that's with missing eight of the team's first 40 games.

At this rate, Bautista is on pace to belt 77 homeruns this year.

Pause for reaction.

While it's highly improbable that Bautista sustains this absolutely torrid pace, the man continues to defy even the most delusional expectations, and has now homered in five of his last 14 at-bats and has reached base in all but one of the 32 games he's played in this year, while posting a batting average of .368. It's safe to say that although we're only a quarter of the way into the 2011 campaign, Bautista has already succeeded at making general manager Alex Anthoupoulos look like the smartest executive in baseball.

With today's victory, the Jays stabilize their record at .500 (20-20) for the first time since April 29.

A spectacularly unspectacular Brandon Morrow got the victory today, improving his record on the year to 2-2. Morrow hurled five innings -- working with a comfortable lead from the outset -- surrendering three runs, all earned, off five hits and two walks while striking out eight.

While the strikeout numbers have been everything that Jays fans had anticipated, Morrow's performance in 2011 thus far hasn't really substantiated all the off-season hype that was generated after the right-hander's impressive second-half in 2010 when he posted a 3.69 ERA to go along with a 5-1 record.

Through five starts this year, Morrow has fashioned a 4.85 ERA and has continually struggled to pitch deep into ballgames, failing to last more than 6.1 innings in any outing.

But in the midst of the first substantial winning streak of the year, it's foolish to dwell on the negative.

The Jays now look to continue their winning ways in the Motor City with an abbreviated two-game set with the surging Tigers (22-18) who also come into the series with a winning streak -- seven games -- to maintain. Fortunately, the Jays will miss facing ace Justin Verlander, who hucked a no-hitter against them May 7 at Rogers Centre.

(Author's note: The aforementioned no-no was the first I had ever witnessed live, and despite all the nonsense being spewed about how the recent surge of no-hitters has caused the feat to lose some of its lustre, it was truly a sight to behold. By the seventh inning I had conceded the game and was pulling for Verlander.)

Fortunately, the Jays should have Adam Lind back in the lineup on Monday after missing the past week due to soreness in his lower back. Lind's presence in the lineup will offer some protection for Bautista.

Not that he needs it.

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