Inside job: Bautista, Wells come through
Non-traditional homer sets up decisive RBI double
TORONTO -- With the All-Star break just under a week away, many fans were wondering if Jose Bautista -- a first-time All-Star and the American League leader in home runs -- would participate in this year's State Farm Home Run Derby.
Oddly enough, Bautista never had the chance to contemplate the decision -- he was never asked.
Therefore when Bautista took sole possession of the AL home run lead with his 22nd homer of the season Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, it felt that much sweeter. But what made the shot even more memorable for Bautista and the 14,886 in attendance was that it didn't even leave the ballpark.
On the heels of Bautista's two-run inside-the-park home run and a clutch seventh-inning RBI double from Vernon Wells, the Blue Jays were able to come from behind and defeat the Twins in a 6-5 nail-biter -- snapping a three-game losing streak.
With Toronto down by one entering the fifth inning, Bautista perfectly placed a 1-2 pitch from Twins starter Kevin Slowey in the gap between sprawling outfielders Delmon Young and Denard Span. With the two outfielders slow to get to their feet after a near disastrous collision, Bautista realized it was time to turn on the jets.
"Just that there was a chance [at an inside-the-parker]," Bautista said when asked what was running through his mind as he strode past second base. "I had to keep going, and by that time my legs were getting a little heavy, so I was just trying to dig deep and try to make it."
Fortunately for Blue Jays fans, Bautista did make it, as the two runs that scored on the play proved to be integral in the see-saw victory.
"It's odd to take the lead in home runs with an inside-the-park home run," said Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells, who will be participating in the Home Run Derby. "I really didn't even know what to do after that. He got a curtain call, and even if he had hit a conventional home run after, it really wouldn't have mattered."
The inside-the-park trip was Major League Baseball's 11th of the season and the second the Twins have surrendered this season -- the other coming at the hands of Royals outfielder David DeJesus April 23. For the Blue Jays, the feat had not been accomplished since Greg Myers did it on Sept. 13, 2003.
While the unconventional two-run shot put the Jays temporarily ahead by one, the Twins battled back for lone runs in both the sixth and the seventh to turn the tables.
The Blue Jays once again showed their resiliency, with outfielder Fred Lewis lacing a one-out triple to right field to begin the late charge. Alex Gonzalez -- who hit a solo blast in the first inning -- proceeded to tie the game with a sacrifice fly.
Following a full-count Bautista walk to keep the inning alive, the stage was set for the slumping Wells.
Quickly falling behind, 0-2, Wells took advantage of a misplaced fastball from reliever Matt Guerrier, sending the pitch to the right-field wall to score Bautista all the way from first. The hit snapped an 0-for-21 streak for Wells and proved to be the game's decisive run.
"You saw [Vernon] chase and miss a breaking ball by two feet and then we go fastball away on him and he hits the ball," an animated Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's just bad selection of pitches and not executing. That's what costs you a game."
Blue Jays starting pitcher Marc Rzepczynski, replacing the injured Shaun Marcum in the rotation, pitched serviceably in his first start of the season. The tall left-hander, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a broken finger during a Spring Training game March 30, went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts -- including striking out the side in the second.
While Rzepczynski was semi-pleased with his outing, it was the game's third inning that was still vividly running through his mind. The southpaw barely escaped a flying broken bat from Young and was clipped by a line drive from the next batter, Danny Valencia.
"It would be ironic that it would be the first outing that I get a bat and a ball come back at me in back-to-back at-bats," said Rzepczynski, who broke his finger as a result of a comebacker. "At least the bat didn't hit me and the ball didn't hit anywhere where it could have broken anything."
While there was no denying the bountiful action Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, the game will ultimately be remembered for the inside-the-park home run -- and the Home Run Derby snub who hit it.
"I don't think that would be really exciting for the fans," Bautista said jokingly about the idea of an inside-the-park home run competition.
Try telling that to the 14,886 at Rogers Centre.
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.