(The Sports Xchange) - Recently Jose Bautista was watching a broadcast discussing how the Toronto Blue Jays hit better against hard-throwing pitchers.
The Blue Jays right fielder more than welcomes those pitches.
When Bautista saw a fastball over the middle of the plate with one out in the top of the 10th inning, he gladly accepted it and turned it into a tiebreaking solo home run, lifting the Blue Jays to a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday.
”We like hard-throwing pitchers,“ Bautista said. ”I think I heard in one of the broadcasts that we hit better on hard-throwing pitchers.
“So I don’t think that fazes anybody here. We love the fastball. We actually invite people to throw fastballs.”
Bautista’s 25th home run gave Toronto (59-52) their sixth straight win and inched them to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees (61-47) in the AL East.
It also marked the sixth straight time he reached 25 home runs in a season, though this time was more significant due to Toronto’s place in the standings.
“We’ve been playing really well,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons after his team beat the Yankees for the sixth time in the last 27 meetings in New York. “Coming in here, this is a team we’re chasing. We got to beat them sooner or later.”
The home run capped a tight, well-played ballgame and came after Bautista took a slider and a fastball from Branden Pinder to fall behind 0-2.
After taking a slider, Pinder threw a fastball over the middle of the plate and Bautista did not miss, sending the pitch over the left-field fence.
“He just made a mistake with a fastball,” Bautista said. “I felt like it was right down the middle, and on a 1-2 count, I‘m looking for an extra-base hit. I‘m not trying to poke a single to the right side in that situation. I need to get on second.”
‘HITTING A BUTTERFLY’
Pinder was pitching after New York’s top three relievers, Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, kept the game tied. Wilson struck out left fielder Ben Revere for the second out of the seventh, Betances got third baseman Josh Donaldson on a groundout with the bases loaded in the seventh and Miller stranded a runner at third in the ninth.
“It was a fastball inside,” Pinder said after his 14th career appearance. “It just cut on me a little bit. I would have liked to get it a little more inside.”
Bautista’s third career extra-inning home run came after Toronto relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Brett Cecil induced key double plays in the eighth and ninth.
Hawkins got designated hitter Alex Rodriguez to ground into a double play for the first two outs of the eighth, and Cecil (3-4) ended his inning by getting third baseman Chase Headley on a double play.
After the Bautista home run, Roberto Osuna closed it out, needing six pitches to get his ninth save in 10 opportunities.
“Excited,” Osuna said of Bautista’s home run. “I want to pitch today and I want to win, so (I‘m) very excited.”
Bautista’s blast capped a pitcher’s duel involving Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and New York right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.
In the first of 13 games over the final eight weeks between the top two offenses in baseball, neither team scored after the second.
Donaldson hit his 30th home run on Eovaldi’s 13th pitch of the night, sending a 2-2 fastball over the right-field fence with one out in the first.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira opened the second with a controversial home run. Teixeira drove Dickey’s 0-1 pitch to left field and stood on second with a double. Replays showed a fan reaching over and touching the ball, and following a nearly four-minute review, Teixeira had his 30th home run.
New York faced a knuckleball pitcher for the second time in three games after losing to Boston’s Steven Wright on Wednesday. The Yankees had six hits off Dickey but had more opportunities Friday.
“It’s like hitting a butterfly,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “I thought we had better swings tonight than we did the other night. We just weren’t able to score any runs.”
While the Yankees struggled to generate anything off Dickey, the Blue Jays could do little against Eovaldi, who gave up five hits but threw 112 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.
Compiled by Peter Rutherford