Bautista turns on heat, jacks two for Jays
Slugger at center of action, with No. 40 as go-ahead homer
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista swung violently and flipped his bat to the ground, admiring his work as he walked out of the batter's box in the eighth inning on Monday night. The Blue Jays slugger then settled into an intentionally slow home run trot.
Bautista's jog around the bases lasted 28 seconds and he soaked up every step as the Yankees watched. After finally planting his foot on home plate, he pumped his fist repeatedly as the crowd inside Rogers Centre roared with approval.
"Given what transpired earlier," Bautista said, "I enjoyed it pretty good."
Bautista referred to the sixth inning of the Blue Jays' 3-2 victory over the rival Yankees, who were victims of two home runs from Toronto's right fielder on this night. That was when it was Bautista -- not his bat -- that fell to the dirt after an errant fastball from New York rookie Ivan Nova sailed close to the outfielder's head.
The wild pitch, which eluded Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and flew to the backstop, made Bautista angry and he made sure to let Nova know. Words were exchanged and benches were cleared, but it was Bautista's bat that did the talking, and the most damage, when all was said and done.
Bautista's two blasts gave him a Major League-leading 40 home runs on the season and accounted for all of the offense for the Blue Jays (65-59). On another evening, Toronto starter Brandon Morrow might have owned the spotlight after allowing two runs and ending with 12 strikeouts in six innings.
Monday's win over New York (77-48) belonged to Bautista.
"He's been amazing all year," Morrow said. "Just one more home run that won the game for us. He's been doing it all year, and I think he's going to continue to."
That could mean the Blue Jays' record book is about to undergo some changes.
With 38 games remaining on the schedule for the Blue Jays, Bautista sits seven home runs shy of George Bell's single-season club record of 47 bombs in 1987. The right fielder is the first player to achieve 40 homers in a season for the Jays since Carlos Delgado launched 42 in '03.
Bautista began his latest onslaught with a two-run shot off Nova in the third inning, pushing the Blue Jays to a 2-1 advantage. His second blast -- already tied for the eighth-highest total in one season in franchise history -- came on an 0-1 offering from Yankees reliever David Robertson to put Toronto ahead for good, 3-2.
"I'm not surprised at all," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, referring to Bautista's breakout showing this season. "With the way he works, and as hard as he goes and he's coachable. That's the big thing about him. You don't have to say much to him this year."
Plenty was said in the sixth inning, though.
Prior to the start of the inning, Gaston and Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar were ejected by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals. After flying out to end the fifth, Escobar could be seen saying something to Meals as he walked back to his position. The umpire wasted little time in sending the shortstop to the showers.
Gaston followed suit after arguing with Meals for a few minutes on the field.
"I got out there to try and keep this kid in the game," Gaston said. "Of course, I got ran out, too."
Tempers flared again when Nova knocked Bautista down with an 0-1 fastball in the bottom of the sixth. Bautista immediately shifted to this feet, yelling at Nova and pointing at the pitcher while taking a few steps toward the mound. Nova barked back, throwing his hands in the air as he shouted.
"I was just trying to see what kind of reaction I was going to get from him," Bautista said. "I was surprised to see he was pretty defiant. He was walking up towards me and flashing his hands up and started yelling. That's when I felt that the pitch was intentional."
Nova denied that was the case.
"It wasn't on purpose," Nova said. "I just throw the ball. I've got to pitch. [If] I pitch inside, I can get a lot of outs. The pitch wasn't on purpose."
As Bautista moved closer to Nova, both benches cleared the relievers sprinted in from their respective bullpens. Warnings were issued by the umpires, but the situation was diffused quickly and no one was ejected. Bautista stepped up to the plate again and flew out to deep center field.
In the end, Bautista had the final say with his game-changing blast in the eighth, and he risked angering the Yankees further with his prolonged celebration.
"Whether he walks around the bases or jogs around the bases, hey, he hit a home run," Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson said. "You've got to go ahead and try to get him not to hit a home run."
That decisive blow gave Bautista 50 home runs dating back to the start of last September, representing the most by any player in the Majors over that span. Prior to this season, Bautista belted 44 home runs combined over his past three big league campaigns.
Bautista's dramatic power surge this year led a non-baseball Toronto Star columnist to write on Sunday that people should question how the outfielder has done it, suggesting performance-enhancing drugs might be involved. Following his latest multihomer outburst, Bautista fired back.
"I'm part of the program just like any other ballplayer is," Bautista said. "We're subject to testing all the time. I don't know where this guy is coming from with his allegations. ... The guy is paid to write something and he did. It's unfortunate.
"I don't know if he's trying to stir something up."
For what it's worth, Yankees manager Joe Girardi weighed in on the issue as well.
"I don't have any suspicions," Girardi said. "Sometimes when a guy gets a chance to play every day in one spot, they figure it out."
It certainly looked that way on Monday.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.