TORONTO -- Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has done his best not to get caught up in his success this season, knowing that thoughts of belting long home runs could hinder his approach at the plate. Thursday night was an exception. It was time to celebrate.
Bautista enjoyed a dinner out with his parents, who flew from the Dominican Republic to Toronto and were in the stands Thursday to watch their son launch his 50th home run of the year. On Friday night, Bautista added Nos. 51 and 52 in front of his family, helping power the Blue Jays to a 6-4 win over the Orioles.
Asked what he had planned for Saturday, when his mom and dad will be in attendance at Rogers Centre once again, Bautista laughed.
"I don't know," Bautista said with a smile. "It'd be nice if I could predict the future, but I'm not that good."
Jose Bautista broke Davey Johnson's record for the biggest increase in home runs over the previous season
Courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau
Bautista has been good enough for the Jays, to say the least.
His latest display of strength, combined with Vernon Wells' 30th home run of the season, provided enough support to push lefty Brett Cecil to his team-leading 14th win of the year for the Blue Jays (78-75). Bautista's two blasts also put him in a class of his own when it comes to breakout seasons for power hitters.
After managing just 13 homers a season ago, Bautista now owns the largest single-season increase in long balls in baseball history at 39. Davey Johnson previously held the record after jumping to 43 homers in 1973 after belting only five the previous year. Bautista's 52 homers are also the most in one year since Alex Rodriguez belted 54 for the Yankees in 2007.
By this point, none of Bautista's teammates are surprised by his feats.
"I've learned over the course of the season not to put any limitations on what he can do," Wells said. "I think the amazing thing is just when he gets his pitch, he's not missing it. And if they're not going to pitch to him, he's not going to swing.
Toronto's single-season homer leaders
"He's had both going where he's been patient enough to wait for his pitch and then not miss it."
Bautista showed precisely that against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman.
In the first inning, Bautista made Tillman his latest victim by sending a 2-1 offering over the wall in left-center field for a solo homer -- No. 51 this season for Toronto's right fielder. In their next meeting, Tillman was a bit more tentative against the slugger, issuing a one-out walk rather than giving Bautista the pitch he desired.
"Not too many people have been getting him out lately," Tillman said. "So I think that's a smart walk there, but a tough walk at the same time."
Tough, because that brought up Wells, who is no slouch in the batter's box. Wells made Tillman pay with a two-run homer to left field on the first pitch he received, pushing the Blue Jays to a 3-1 lead at the time.
Yes way, Jose
Jose Bautista became the 19th player to hit 52 or more homers in a season on Friday
That blast made Wells only the fourth player in Blue Jays history to achieve at least three seasons with 30 or more home runs, joining Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter and Fred McGriff.
"Thirty is a good round number," Wells said, "but it pales in comparison when the guy in front of you has 52. It's a cool number, but he's almost doubled me in homers. So it's cool, but not nearly as cool as 52.
Primarily behind the work of Bautista and Wells, who have combined for 82 homers this season, the Blue Jays sit seven homers shy of the team record with nine games to play. Toronto currently leads the Majors with 237 homers, which is closing in on the club's single-season mark of 244 set in 2000.
"This team lives and dies by the long ball," Tillman said of the Blue Jays.
Toronto lived it up some more in the sixth inning, when Bautista put a 1-2 pitch from Tillman into the second deck above left field for his 52nd shot of the season. That two-run blast provided the Jays with a 5-1 lead and proved critical considering Baltimore rallied for two runs in the seventh and another in the ninth.
In the eighth inning, Bautista drew his second walk of the game -- one in a span of three walks that helped Toronto plate its sixth run of the evening. That free pass marked the 98th of the year for Bautista, who is on the verge of becoming only the 14th player in baseball history with at least 50 homers and 100 walks in a single season.
"He's pretty locked in," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's got an idea when he goes up there what he wants to do. He's giving them one side of the plate and he takes the other side."
Sounds simple, but it is a style that has worked all year long.
"For the most part, I'm going to go up there and stick to my game plan," Bautista said. "Get ready on time, see the ball and hit it. If I end up walking and Vernon drives me in, great. Any way I can contribute, I'm going to try to do it.
"If I don't get pitches to hit, I'm going to try to lay off just like I have been all season."
Cecil (14-7) earned the win after limiting the Orioles (61-92) to three runs (two earned) on 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked none, but fought erratic control all night.
As has been the case for much of the season, though, Cecil benefited from some more long balls from Bautista. The Majors' leading home run hitter boasts 13 shots on days that Cecil starts, with five coming in the past three outings for the lefty.
"Guys keep giving me crap about it," Cecil said with a laugh. "I get all the run support, I guess. I'll take those any day, as long as we keep winning and everybody keeps doing well, I'm happy."
Bautista has undoubtedly been making his parents happy, too.