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TOR@MIN: Bautista hits his second homer of the game

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Jose Bautista is locked in, there's not much a pitcher can do with him, as the Minnesota Twins found out again on Sunday.

Bautista hit three home runs and Brandon Morrow bounced back from a shaky start with five strong innings as the Blue Jays ran their winning streak to five with an 11-3 win over Minnesota.

"It's ridiculous," Bautista said after his first career three-homer game gave him a Major League-leading 16. "It feels like a dream right now and sometimes I can't even believe it myself. I keep seeing good pitches and I'm just executing right now, so I've got to keep working on doing that."

Bautista hit five home runs in the three-game sweep at Target Field, including at least one home run in each game, leaving the Twins shaking their heads while wondering if they'd ever seen a hitter so dominant.

"I never saw Barry Bonds play, so never," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "I don't have an answer for that. It's unbelievable. He's turned himself into the best hitter in the game as far as I'm concerned. It's pretty amazing."

Bautista hit his 14th homer of the season leading off the third inning, a 430-foot drive off Twins starter Brian Duensing (2-3) that reached the second deck in left field despite a 20-mph wind blowing in. He added No. 15 in his next at-bat, a line drive to left off an 0-2 fastball from reliever Kevin Slowey, and blasted a Slowey pitch for an opposite-field two-run homer in the sixth.

He's not just dominating in the power game, however. For the season, Bautista is hitting .368/.520/.868 with 35 walks and only 19 strikeouts in 150 plate appearances.

"He's not only got an awareness of the strike zone, but he's seeing the ball exceptionally well," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He's disciplined, and he's obviously playing with a heck of a lot of confidence right now."

Even his teammates were left in awe after Sunday's game. Fellow slugger Adam Lind, who shares the team RBI lead with Bautista at 27, called him "the greatest Blue Jay ever," while Morrow was just glad that he didn't have to face him.

"You've gotta throw it somewhere," Morrow said when asked why pitchers ever give him something to hit. "I don't really know what approach I would take with him. Try and get under his bat and he puts the barrel there. Try and go away and he puts it, the last couple of days, over the right-field wall.

BAUTISTA'S HOME RUN LOG
No. Date Opp.
1 04/01 MIN
2 04/03 MIN
3 04/13 @SEA
4 04/19 NYY
5 04/22 TB
6 04/23 TB
7 04/23 TB
8 04/25 @TEX
9 04/29 @NYY
10 05/08 DET
11 05/10 BOS
12 05/13 @MIN
13 05/14 @MIN
14 05/15 @MIN
15 05/15 @MIN
16 05/15 @MIN
"It's been ridiculous, just watching his approach at the plate," he added. "He doesn't swing at anything outside his zone. He's taking all the right pitches, and when he does swing he's connecting."

Morrow (2-2) struck out eight and walked two while allowing three runs on five hits. He was pulled from his last start in the fourth inning after Farrell noticed a dip in velocity and inconsistency with his mechanics, but Sunday's early hook was a result of him throwing 106 pitches through five innings.

"I'd like to give myself a chance to work deeper in the game, but a win's a win," Morrow said. "I feel all right -- I just can't seem to get guys to put the ball in play early in the count. I'll take a little off and throw a two-seamer and they'll foul that off. I hump up on one and put it inside, they foul that off. I don't know. I bet I'm leading the league in foul balls per at-bat right now."

The Blue Jays have now won five straight and evened their record at 20-20 as they head to Detroit for a two-game set with the Tigers. The key now is to keep playing with confidence and build on this momentum.

"I know it's a good feeling to come in here and win three games," veteran infielder John McDonald said. "When you look at where we were in the standings 10 days ago, we're not where we want to be, but now back to .500 and we're a lot closer to where we want to be. We hope the division just keeps on clustering up and it keeps everybody within a shot."

As long as Bautista stays locked in, anything's possible.

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