MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field hasn't proved much of a challenge for Jose Bautista thus far in his career, and the Blue Jays' slugger could be using this weekend's series to get back on track after a slow start to 2012.
Bautista homered twice on Friday night, giving him nine home runs in nine games at the Twins' ballpark, which opened in 2010. To put that number in perspective, Minnesota's Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have combined for seven home runs in 213 games in their home park.
But Bautista said Friday that he doesn't think Target Field itself has much to do with his crazy power numbers in Minnesota.
"I guess it's just a pitching staff that throws strikes and tries to challenge you, and at the times that I've come here, maybe I've been swinging a hot bat. I mean, [Thursday] they still challenged me and I didn't get any hits," Bautista said. "That just shows you it depends on how I'm swinging the bat, and there's nothing about this stadium in particular."
Last year, Bautista was hitting .350 with 11 home runs when the Blue Jays visited Minneapolis for a mid-May series. Three games later, he'd added five home runs to his season total -- including three in the series finale -- and bumped his season average to .368 after going 7-for-14 against Twins pitching.
Thursday night, Bautista went 0-for-3 with a strikeout before going 2-for-5 on Friday, leaving his season average at .186. He may have broken through with the two home runs off Nick Blackburn, but he said he's been feeling better at the plate since the Blue Jays' current road trip started on May 3 at Anaheim.
"Two home runs don't mean anything -- I've felt like I've had good at-bats and bad at-bats since we've been on this road trip, but for the most part I've been seeing the ball better and today was just one of those days where I see the results," Bautista said. "There's been other days where I've squared up three or four balls and had some good at-bats and had some breaks not go my way and go 0-for-4."
Escobar thriving in No. 2 spot
MINNEAPOLIS -- A change in address has made all the difference for Yunel Escobar.
No, he hasn't been traded. He's just found a new home in the second spot of the batting order.
After batting leadoff for the first 24 games of the season, Escobar dropped down a spot in the order on May 2. In the seven games since, his average has climbed 48 points to a season-high .265 thanks to a 12-for-31 stretch that has included four multi-hit games.
Escobar responded immediately to the move with a three-hit game against Texas, then banged out five hits in the three games at Anaheim. Thursday night, Escobar opened the series against Minnesota with four hits and scored three times, helping to set the tone for the Blue Jays with aggressive baserunning and patience at the plate.
"Our baserunning is part of our offense," manager John Farrell said before Friday's game. "While the numbers -- the batting average, the home runs, the RBIs for some individuals -- may not be to even their own expectations, the fact remains that as a team we're fourth in the league in runs scored.
"Any time we're putting up five or six runs on a given night, we put ourselves in a position to win. So it might not be as we initially drew up based on the personnel, still, collectively, we're putting together a solid game every time we take the field."
Escobar has drawn five walks in the last seven games, and he ran through a stop sign Thursday night to score from second base on an infield grounder. Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe fielded the ball and fired to second for the force, but as Alexi Casilla stretched out to take the throw, Escobar never broke stride rounding third and easily beat the relay to the plate.
"That was instinctual on his part," Farrell said. "As a middle infielder, he understands where that ball is going to be directed and the potential for a ground-ball double play to be made. ... In that situation, Yunel trusted his instincts and it paid off.
As for the switch in the batting order, Farrell said Escobar's success could be more a product of confidence than a new perspective.
"I can't say just the shift to the two hole has been the reason for it. It could very well have been that he was trending in a way that maybe some of the hits were starting to fall," Farrell said. "I do know that he responded immediately with a couple of hits and like any player, when they change spots in the order and get instant results, maybe it allows them to relax and allow their natural abilities to play out."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.