Bautista hits two of Jays' six homers in rout
Grand slam helps push season total to 54, team mark to 253
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Blue Jays heard all about Target Field and its reputation as a place where baseballs go to die. On Thursday, a few players from the Twins even warned their competitors that home runs were a rare commodity in this place.
"Some guys on the other team had mentioned that to us," Blue Jays left fielder Travis Snider said.
Throughout this year, however, Toronto has made more than a few ballparks appear smaller than the actual dimensions. The same held true for the Twins' new digs, which the Blue Jays turned into their personal launching pad with six home runs in a 13-2 rout over the American League Central champions.
Led by the 53rd and 54th homers of the season for Jose Bautista, and a pair of blasts from Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays upped their Major League-leading total to 253 long balls this year. That outpouring is good for the fourth-highest single-season showing by a team in baseball history. Next up on the list are the 1996 Orioles at 257.
Basically, it was just another routine day for the Blue Jays.
"I never get tired of seeing it," manager Cito Gaston said with a grin.
Gaston has not grown tired of Bautista's blasts, either.
In the seventh inning against the Twins, Bautista added yet another exclamation point to an already stellar season. Minnesota reliever Pat Neshek let loose a 3-1 pitch and Bautista answered with one of his mighty swings. The ball jumped off his bat, towered high over left field and landed in the third deck for a grand slam.
It was a majestic shot measured at 428 feet. A guess of 800 feet might also have been accepted as fact.
"The one he pulled was a bomb," Snider said.
"That might be the longest one he's hit all year," Gaston agreed.
Did Bautista agree?
"I feel it's the longest," he replied.
That, of course, is excluding Bautista's foul ball that has developed into something of a tall tale. On Saturday, he launched a pitch behind him and sent it clear over the 500 level seats at Rogers Centre, where it appeared to sail out of the ballpark. A Jays official said Thursday that one of the stadium's workers found a baseball resting in the track for the retractable roof.
Bautista achieved another rare feat in the ninth inning in Minnesota. For home run No. 54, he bent low and flicked his wrists at a 1-2 offering from Twins reliever Jose Mijares. The baseball carried to right field and barely cleared the wall, marking the first time in Bautista's career that he homered that far to the opposite field.
"I was actually just trying to make contact," Bautista said with a laugh. "I can't even, I don't even know what happened with that one. Somehow it went over, but I'll take it."
Yes way, Jose
Bautista's powerful display came after he snapped out of an 0-for-20 drought with a single in the sixth inning. That slide dated back to Sept. 24, when Bautista belted Nos. 51-52 against the Orioles, extending his single-season club record.
Three of Toronto's six blasts on Thursday came against Twins lefty Francisco Liriano, who had only allowed six all year prior to the outing, and no more than two in any of his starts. Minnesota's staff as a whole had only surrendered 54 homers in Target Field's first 77 games.
Then again, Liriano and the Twins had not faced the Jays (83-76) until now.
Encarnacion got the power parade started with a two-run homer off Liriano in the second inning and a solo blast to dead center against the lefty in the fifth. Following that second homer, catcher Jose Molina added a solo shot of his own. Snider chipped in a two-run homer in the eighth. And, then there were Bautista's two contributions.
It was an offensive showing that went a long way in backing a solid, if brief, outing from Jays right-hander Shawn Hill. Minnesota (93-66) managed just one run in 4 2/3 off Hill, who exited early due to a limited pitch count. The bullpen carried the rest of the load, though it was the Jays' lineup that did the heavy lifting.
"We know these guys coming in here, we know they can do it with the best of them," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "It's still not fun. I don't know if you call it irritating, but we can, because it's irritating.
"That's what these guys on the other side do. You make a mistake up in the zone and they crack it. We saw that all night long."
Bautista had another way of describing it.
"It's kind of like the team philosophy is, 'Just get a good pitch and hit it hard,'" Bautista said. "The balls have been flying out of any stadium all year long for the whole team. We got ourselves in good hitting counts today and we hit a lot of balls hard."
Target Field hardly proved intimidating.
"I don't mind it at all," Bautista said with a smile.