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MacArthur: Jays' fearsome offence carrying the load

Scott MacArthur
5/22/2014 9:37:21 PM
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BOSTON – The Blue Jays' scorching offence finished a three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park and sits at or near the top of a number of the sport's essential statistical categories.

Toronto is first in home runs with 67; it's second in slugging percentage (.445) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.773) and sixth in walks (168).

Jose Bautista was the celebrated hero of April, smacking eight of his 11 home runs, working to a 1.065 OPS in the opening month.

In May it's been Edwin Encarnacion, the other half of the Blue Jays' deadly three-four lineup combination, who has done most of the damage. With 11 of his 13 home runs this month, including four two-home run games and an OPS of 1.090, you could argue Encarnacion's been carrying the lineup.

Bautista doesn't want to hear it; not about himself and not about someone else. There's plenty of credit to go around.

"I think everybody's been contributing since day one," Bautista told TSN.ca. "Melky, for instance, is leading the league in hits. Adam's (Lind) hitting .320. Brett (Lawrie), even though his average is down a little bit, he's got 20-something RBI. Everybody's helping out. Francisco's got seven, eight home runs and 20 RBI as well. Navarro's hitting close to .300."

While Bautista insists he hasn't been pitched to differently since Encarnacion has heated up, he expects opposing teams to change their approach once they peruse the pre-scout books and video.

"I'm sure it's going to change," said Bautista. "I think people are definitely noticing and now it's going to be more on their radar how hot he is so hopefully that means I'm going to get a couple of more mistakes over the plate."

Taking his word for it, teams may not be pitching differently to Bautista but at least they now are pitching to him. Consider that in April, while Encarnacion laboured through a relatively slow opening month, Bautista walked 30 times in 122 plate appearances (24.6 per cent). In May, through to the end of Thursday's game, Bautista has walked 11 times in 94 trips to the plate (11.7 per cent).

Through Thursday, the Blue Jays had won six of seven and 12 of 17. They have a number of individuals at or near the top of a number of categories.

They include:

Melky Cabrera: 64 hits, the most in Major League Baseball
Edwin Encarnacion: 13 home runs (Tied-3rd); 39 RBI (6th).

Jose Bautista: 12 home runs (Tied 6th), 41 walks (1st); .435 on-base percentage (5th); .988 on-base plus slugging (5th).

Mark Buehrle: Eight wins, the most in Major League Baseball; 2.16 ERA (8th).


GIBBONS LIKES HIS OFFENCE

The story of Toronto's offensive production got lost earlier this season amid the worry over the starting pitching and the bullpen blowing leads.

With the Jays winning, the bats move to the forefront. The skipper has seen it all year.

"We can hit, top to bottom," said manager John Gibbons. "It's a strong American League lineup and that's kind of what you need in the American League. We're really a home run threat with most of those guys in that lineup we can burn you that way. I really like the approach we have at the plate. We're taking some hits the other way when it's called for. The better pitchers, that's the way they're attacking you. We're confident right now. You have good games when you're feeling good. Baseball is a game of ups and downs all year long but it's a good strong lineup."


HENDRIKS TO START FRIDAY

The Blue Jays will recall right-hander Liam Hendriks from Buffalo on Friday and he will start the series opener against Oakland.

R.A. Dickey will be pushed back to Saturday when he will throw on an extra day's rest.

"We just decided to split up Buehrle and Dickey," said Gibbons. "They're our old reliable guys, kind of our innings eaters."

Hendriks is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA and a 0.801 WHIP for the Triple-A Bisons.

The 25-year-old is hoping for his first period of sustained major league success. In parts of three seasons with the Twins, Hendriks was 2-13 with an ERA of 6.06.

A corresponding roster move will be made before Friday's game.


HOME COOKING

The Jays kick off a season-high 10-game homestand on Friday. After the Athletics come in for three, the Tampa Bay Rays will check in, followed by the Kansas City Royals for a four-game series.

Toronto has a bus trip series to Detroit for three games June 2-4 and then will return home for six games, three each with the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins.

For the Blue Jays, it isn't so much about capitalizing on home field advantage as it is trying to create a home field advantage.

Toronto is 10-11 at Rogers Centre and 16-11 on the road.

"We have to play good at home," said Gibbons. "We've played actually better on the road this year than we have at home. We're there for awhile so hopefully we can take advantage of that."

"I never want to have any outlook at any period of the season and start a sentence with 'We have to' or 'We need to' or 'It's imperative that we do anything,'" said Bautista. "Every time in baseball when you have that mentality things seem to go the other way. We've just got to focus on the preparation, go out and give it our all every single day and take it one day at a time and hope for good results and if we get them, we get them."

Oakland comes to town the leader of the American League West with a record of 30-17. Despite a 5-2, 11-inning loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Athletics have won 11 of their last 13 games.

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