NEW YORK - Jose Bautista exited the game Sunday in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds with tightness in his left leg. That is something, Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays hope will not be a long term injury as they await the results from an MRI that was scheduled on Monday.
The Blue Jays right-fielder currently leads the American League in on-base percentage and is a leading vote getter for the AL All-Star team. Toronto has a game-and-a half lead over the Yankees and Orioles in the American League east, and after a strong start have seen their first struggle of the season. Bautista has been a part of their success after sitting out the final third of last season with a left hip injury.
Until that injury, he hit 28 home runs becoming the fourth Blue Jay in club history to hit 25 or more in four consecutive years. So, any length of time out of the lineup will hinder an opportunity for Toronto to clinch their first post-season berth since 1993.
As a team, the Blue Jays lead baseball in home runs. Bautista has 15 of them and Edwin Encarnacion, a major league leading 24, a formidable duo that have been a tough out. Everyone agrees, without Bautista in the lineup the task for the Blue Jays to make the post-season becomes that more difficult.
“Always fun to play in this division,” Bautista said last week at Yankee Stadium prior to the Yankees series finale in the Bronx. “It’s always been tough. Most of the teams have been hovering around the same record. It’s more challenging.”
The Yankees would get a three-game sweep, narrowing the gap in what appears to be a tight and contested divisional race. The Red Sox, struggling, are not going to concede their 2013 World Series title so soon and the Orioles are making a move. But the Blue Jays need a healthy Bautista to keep their lead, one they have held since the end of play on May 22nd.
“If we can execute everyday out of 162- games we would probably win 140- games,” he commented. “But we have to execute and pick it up…I don’t want to speak badly or worse about the Yankees or Orioles. We faced much better pitching on the home stand than on the road.”
Bautista was referring to the recent road trip that has put the Blue Jays in this tailspin that put the Yankees and Orioles closer to the division lead. With the exception of opposing Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees Japanese rookie pitcher, Bautista said, “We should have won some of these games that we lost.”
Coming into the Yankees series, Bautista reached base safely in 69 of his 73 games. Bautista, 33, is hitting .305 with 49 RBIs in 77 games and reached a milestone last Wednesday night in the Bronx, his 1,000th career hit that received little or no acclaim.
“Down the same path all that’s important,” he said. “Makes me proud of all the accomplishments,” citing the milestone and being second in the majors in home runs since 2010.
He said it was a great accomplishment. And then, he was informed that he is a current leader for a starting spot in the outfield representing the American League for the All-Star game to be played July 15th in Minnesota.
“Knew I was getting close, but did not know how many,” he said about the votes. He also is a top leader with social media, having a little over half a million followers on Twitter. His handle @Joeybats19.
Regarding his popularity on social media, he said with a smile,” I wasn’t aware of it. I guess I’ve been blessed. It’s always good to be recognized and to be part of being an athlete today. I am glad and happy to use it, (social media) in the right way and connect with the fans and get the access they wanted.”
And the Blue Jays want is a healthy and hot bat from Bautista so they can return to the post season in October.
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