Monday, May 31, 2010

Jays' Jose Bautista matches career high set in 2006 with Pittsburgh


The Toronto Blue Jays started the 2009 season quickly, raising the hopes of their fans that perhaps this was the year that the Jays could compete for the AL East title, or at the very least, a wildcard spot. A young pitching staff, shaped around Roy Halladay, as well as a tremendous start at the plate by Adam Lind and a healthy Aaron Hill made the Jays the talk of the town in Toronto for the first time in years. Then the “streak” arrived, a nine game losing streak from May 19-27th that brought the Jays and their fans back down to earth. While they continued to play some good baseball, the team never seemed to recover from that slide.

At the end of May in the 2009 season, the Jays had a win/loss record of 29-24; in the 2010 season, the Jays are 30-22. Not too much of a difference... However, this is a team that was supposed to be rebuilding this season, expectations were low; their position at the bottom of the division was guaranteed by baseball analysts before the season began. This year’s Blue Jays squad has not only improved their record, they are within 4.5 games of the division lead heading into a crucial nine game stretch, a stretch that could make or break the 2010 season.

Starting with tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre, the Jays play three against the first place Tampa Bay Rays, followed by three against the New York Yankees (currently 3.5 games behind Tampa), and then the team travels to the sunshine state for three more against Tampa. Another nine game losing streak and the Jays will tumble down the standings; playing .500 baseball or even winning a series or two and there is a very real possibility that the Jays will be playing meaningful baseball games in August and September. The confidence they could gain from holding their own against the powerhouse teams in the division would be immeasurable.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Toronto continues to be the number of home runs flying over the fences; the team still leads the MLB in home runs with 88 - Boston is second with 69. Toronto also leads the majors in several other offensive categories. Their 123 doubles is ten more then the second place Red Sox and Toronto trails the Yankees in RBI’s by two (266 for NY, 264 for Toronto). The Jays also lead the majors in total bases with 836 - Boston is second with 810. The only worrisome stat at the plate is Toronto’s team batting average. Hitting .244 as a group, the Jays are 25th in the majors; if the home runs stop flying and they need to start playing some small ball, there could be trouble. However, after slow starts at the plate, Aaron Hill and Lyle Overbay are starting to see their numbers improve, which should help the team’s overall numbers.

Two Toronto players in particular are contributing to the team totals and leading in the American League and MLB in several categories. Vernon Wells leads the AL in doubles with 18, teammate and new fan favourite Fred Lewis is third with 16. Wells’ 14 home runs ranks fourth in the majors, two behind the overall leader, Jose Bautista.

The Toronto right fielder is having a career year with 16 home runs and his 41 RBI’s is fourth overall in the MLB. Bautista has already equalled his career high for home runs, set in 2006 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and his RBI total through 52 games is one more then he had in 113 games last year. The WWE has a huge following in Toronto and wrestling fans in the city are very familiar with the “Batista Bombs”, now the baseball fans in Toronto are getting acquainted with Jose’s “Bautista’s Bombs”...

Photo by David Watson on Flickr.com

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