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Bautista belts three homers in matinee win over Twins

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Associated Press
5/16/2011 2:38:11 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Even by Jose Bautista's recent standards, this a remarkable stretch of hitting.

Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the Toronto outfielder has led the majors in home runs and he has become a threat to go deep at any moment.

But a performance that included three home runs in Sunday's 11-3 victory over Minnesota and a total of five during a series sweep of the Twins even left Bautista a little bit dumbfounded.

"It's ridiculous, it feels like a dream right now," Bautista said. "Sometimes I can't really believe it myself, but I keep seeing the good pitches."

And he keeps hitting those pitches. Hard.

"I guess this one of the hottest streaks I've ever had in my life," said Bautista, who led the majors with 54 homers last year. "I'm seeing the ball well and connecting good. Hopefully I can keep this going for a while."

How good has Bautista been?

The right-fielder is hitting .415 with 13 homers and 21 RBIs over the past 19 games. His 16 home runs this season are just two behind the total of the entire Twins team and his five over the weekend is just one shy of the six that Minnesota has at Target Field this season.

And there's one more key stat. In the year-plus that Target Field has been open, Bautista has seven homers in seven games in the Twins' new ballpark.

"There's no secret (at Target Field), they're just throwing me a lot of strikes right now," Bautista said. "Last time we came here, same thing. I see the ball well here because there's a nice backdrop. Nothing that really sticks out."

After popping out to third base in the first inning Sunday, Bautista hit a solo home run to the second deck of left field off of Twins starter Brian Duensing in the third.

In the fourth, Bautista hit a line drive just inside the left field line off of reliever Kevin Slowey. Both homers were hit into a strong wind that was blowing in from left at more than 20 miles per hour.

In the sixth, Bautista's two-run homer to right-centre just cleared the 23-foot high wall and gave Toronto an 11-3 lead. Before hitting into a fielder's choice in the eighth, Bautista had homered four times in five plate appearances going back to Saturday's 11th-inning homer.

Bautista has 11 multi-home run games since the beginning of the 2010 season and three this season. His recent surge has him ahead of last year's pace, when he reached 16 homers on May 30.

While the power is impressive to Bautista's Blue Jays teammates, it is the discipline that really amazes them.

"He doesn't swing at their pitch ever," Adam Lind said. "You're witnessing the best Blue Jay ever."

Toronto manager John Farrell, who has a unique perspective on Bautista after serving previously as Boston's pitching coach, said he has come to expect the amazing.

"The second home run, it's an 0-2 pitch," Farrell said. "It's a ball in, not on the plate and yet he's able to get the barrel on the ball and drive it out of the ball park.

"The one thing he's doing, he not only has an awareness of the strike zone, he's seeing the ball exceptionally well, he's disciplined and he's obviously playing with a heck of a lot of confidence right now."

The Twins were very impressed.

"He's turned himself into the best hitter in the game, as far as I'm concerned. It's pretty amazing," Michael Cuddyer said. "Every single ball he hits, whether it's a foul ball or whatever, is right on the barrel. To me it looks like he's used one bat the whole season. It's unbelievable. Words can't describe what he looks like at the plate right now."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was a bit more blunt.

"Every time we made a mistake, he put it in the seats," he said.

From the beginning of the game, Toronto piled up runs. The Blue Jays opened the game by turning a pair of walks into two runs in the first inning before adding a single run in the second and four in the third. By the time Bautista homered in the fourth, the lead was 8-0.

Brandon Morrow (2-2) limited Minnesota to three runs over five innings to pick up the victory. Shawn Camp, Carlos Villanueva and Octavio Dotel combined to pitch four scoreless innings of relief.

Duensing (3-4) entered the game as perhaps Minnesota's most consistent pitcher. But he lasted only three innings, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits.

Notes: After the game, Toronto activated IF Jayson Nix from the disabled list and optioned IF David Cooper to Triple-A Las Vegas. ... Bautista also tied Blue Jays record for homers through 40 games. Carlos Delgado had 16 homers through 40 games in 2001. ... Blue Jays C J.P. Arencibia was fine after taking a foul ball off of his throwing hand Saturday. Arencibia didn't start on Sunday after starting nine consecutive games. ... Minnesota DH Jim Thome, who is on the DL with an oblique injury, is expected to participate in a simulated game Monday at Fort Myers, Fla.

Jose Bautista (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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