Bautista, Blue Jays heating up at same time

Slugger goes 2-for-4 with go-ahead 3-run homer vs. Mariners

Bautista, Blue Jays heating up at same time

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are starting to heat up, and by the looks of it, so too is their star right fielder.

Jose Bautista homered for the third time over his last four games in Toronto's 7-2 victory over the Mariners on Saturday afternoon. Toronto has won six of its last seven games, and it should come as no surprise that the recent run of good fortune has come at a time when the middle of the order is being more productive.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the game that he felt the biggest difference with Bautista is that, unlike earlier this season, when he gets a pitch to hit, he's not missing it. Before, Bautista would either swing through or foul it off, and now those pitches are being driven somewhere hard.

"I'm just getting good pitches, and I'm not missing them," Bautista said, while agreeing with that assessment. "I'm just going to take it one day at a time and hopefully continue to contribute. We're all showing up here -- everybody -- to work hard and get wins, and we've been doing that lately, so everything is easier when that happens."

Bautista opened the season with just two homers and six extra-base hits during his first 32 games. He was not the lone cause, but he was a major factor in Toronto's prolonged struggles at the plate that resulted in the worst start in franchise history. There were some concerns from the media and fanbase that he might not be capable of turning it around, but the recent signs suggest maybe the early worries were a little overblown.

The 36-year-old finished Saturday's game 2-for-4 with a tie-breaking, three-run homer and a double. He has at least one hit in four of his last five games, and the power seems to be coming back. Even before Bautista's batted balls started leaving the park, he was hitting line drives with more regularity, but he wasn't getting the breaks. Now he is. Statcast™ is showing more and more balls off his bat with exit velocities above 100 mph, and his timing appears to be back.

There's no guarantee this will continue, but the track record suggests it should, and that's good news for a Blue Jays team that is trying to survive without several key members of its everyday lineup. With Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin out, it has been up to Bautista and others such as Kevin Pillar to pick up the slack.

"He's showing up at the right time," Pillar said. "We, as his teammates, keep reminding him, it's not about what you've done. It's about what you're going to do for us today. Don't worry about what the batting average says up there, you've got an opportunity to help this team win, and I think you've seen that over the last couple of days. He's not trying to get his batting average back up. He's not trying to get three hits in one at-bat. He's just taking his at-bats one by one."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. 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.