Jose Bautista needs to remain the engine of the Toronto Blue Jays line up. While the team’s line up has been swinging baseball bat-shaped icicles for most of the season, Bautista has quietly had a 3.0 fWAR season and his slash line of .254/.351/.493 has been solid. In an 8-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, he hit a home run and not much else. While the rest of the team struggles, can Bautista hit well enough and long enough to carry the team until the other players begin hitting at their talent level?
On the positive side, Bautista is taking a good amount of pitches in every at bat. The benefits of his patience were evident during his second at bat in the third inning. Bautista had seen eight pitches, fouled off three of the eight and made warning track contact on another pitch. He was able to zero in on the eighth pitch and hit a two run Home Run. Even the one swing and miss he had during his first at bat looked good, only to be bested by a better pitch.
The problem for Bautista could be the high fastball. During his third at bat, he struck out swinging at a high heater and the swing was not pretty. Unfortunately, this has been a theme for Bautista in his last few games. A bad swing at a bad pitch does nothing for his momentum. Even if it’s called a strike, it would be better just to take the pitch. When the rest of the AL East sees Bautista swinging at the high heater, he may receive a steady diet of high fastballs and the Blue Jays’ offense could cease to function at all.
In last nights game, Bautista gave us a glimpse of what happens when he doesn’t bring his “A” game. In the seventh inning, Rays pitcher David Price hit his stride, throwing out after out. The Blue Jays needed a hit to break Price’s momentum and get a rally going. Bautista was able to get into a good hitters count, 2-1, but he popped out to end the inning. He would come up to bat one more time in the ninth inning, but he popped out again. The Blue Jays needed their best hitter to crush it, and Bautista came up empty.
For the Blue Jays to complete what would be a historic turn around and make the playoffs this season, all the pieces will need to fall in to place just right. The Blue Jays playoff run will need to start with Bautista keeping the offense running well enough to grind out wins, however, he can’t pick up for an entire team on his own. If the Blue Jays are to have a shot at the playoffs, the whole line up will need to hit together at their talent level, making up for their less than adequate performance thus far.