Bautista's power swing locked in this month

Slugger swats go-ahead shot vs. Rays for 8th HR in June

Bautista's power swing locked in this month

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Jose Bautista is locked in at the plate, there isn't a hitter in Major League Baseball that is more feared by opposing pitchers, and that's been pretty evident during June.

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Bautista homered yet again during Monday's 8-5 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field. It was his second in as many days and his eighth this month, which is one more than he had in April and May combined.

The timing seems to coincide with his strained right shoulder nearing full strength, after weeks of trying to play through the pain, but according to Bautista, there's more to it than that.

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"Being healthy and close to pain-free is definitely easier on the body," Bautista said. "Less things you have to think about, the more you can let things just go and be loose and kind of just play instead of just guarding certain parts of your body.

"But I don't think it's the only reason, I think the offense is clicking, I've been getting to the plate with a lot of people on base and with the rate that I'm walking at, people have to pitch to me eventually. Luckily for me, when there's runners on, when they walk me, there's nowhere for me to go."

Bautista entered the series against Tampa Bay ranked first in the American League with 17 walks in June. He also was tied for second in home runs, third in RBIs (19), third in OPS (1.100), fourth in on-base percentage (.448) and fifth in slugging (.652).

All of that production has come after a slow start to the year, at least by his standards.

When Bautista injured his shoulder during a game against the Orioles on April 21, he went on to hit .284 with a .406 on-base percentage a .916 OPS. Most players would do anything for those kinds of numbers, but three home runs over those 30 games seemed uncharacteristic for one of the game's elite power hitters.

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Since returning to right field, though, the power has returned, and there may be no turning back. As Bautista said, it also helps to be a part of the league's best offense because that forces other teams into very difficult situations.

"Those are the times when I see pitchers throw more strikes than others because they have to," Bautista said. "I've been able to take advantage, and in some of those key situations with people on base, I haven't missed the pitch, which I think was lacking earlier in the season."

Bautista's solo homer on Monday night gave his Blue Jays team a 4-3 lead and sparked what turned into a four-run rally. It was the second time in as many days he hit a go-ahead home run, and this one left his bat at 107 mph and was projected by Statcast™ to travel 442 feet.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was asked after the game if he is running out of words to describe Bautista's recent play, but he didn't hesitate when providing an answer.

"No, because I've seen it before," Gibbons said. "That's why he's one of the top players in the game. Got off to a little bit of a slow start and, man, he has been locked in now. He's an All-Star for a reason, we've got a few of them on this team."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.