TORONTO -- Teams across Major League Baseball would probably be well-served to avoid any on-field conflicts with Jose Bautista, because he seems to have a knack for getting the last word.
Baltimore. Atlanta. Texas. It doesn't seem to matter what organization it is, if Bautista is made out to be the enemy, he usually finds a way to let his bat do most of the talking. That was the case again Saturday afternoon when Bautista hit a three-run homer to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers.
Bautista always denies it, but he seems to revel in moments like this. Heated rivalry, bad blood ... that's when Bautista shines, and there had to be a level of extra satisfaction that the latest shot came against his biggest enemy of all: the Rangers.
"I'm just not missing my pitch," Bautista said after delivering the eventual game-winning blow vs. the Rangers. "I feel a little bit better rhythm-wise, and I feel like I'm manipulating the bat where I want to more often now than I was a few weeks ago. Because of those reasons, I'm not missing my pitch very often. I just have to continue to go up to the plate with that feeling and continue to execute my game plan."
There was a time earlier this year that some critics began to question whether Bautista was nearing the end. He seemed to have trouble catching up to fastballs, his strikeout rate reached a personal all-time high, and there was no power to speak of. In many ways, Bautista looked like a shell of his former self -- but not anymore.
May has been a completely different story, as Bautista began to turn his season around and silence the doubters. At the end of April, Bautista was hitting .178 with one home run and seven RBIs. Since then, Bautista has hit .295 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. Six of those home runs either tied the game or gave Toronto the lead, and he played a big role in keeping the team afloat while it was without Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson.
The Blue Jays were 11 games under .500 at one point, but they're riding a five-game winning streak and are now three games under .500. The latest victory came in large part because of six strong innings from Marco Estrada and the three-run homer that came on a hanging slider from one of the top pitchers in the game in Yu Darvish.
"In the previous at-bat to Bautista, I was getting a reaction like I didn't think he was seeing the curveball or slider because he was moving back a little when I threw," Darvish said, through an interpreter. "So I was trying to get ahead of the count with my slider, but just didn't execute the pitch."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons agreed with that.
"Jose has been really hot," Gibbons said. "He didn't miss it when he got the hanger."
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.