Sometimes Jose Bautista drives in runs by hitting home runs. (He has 95 RBIs, third in the American League, going into today’s games, and is tops in four-baggers.) At other times, he drives in runs–well, by running.

That was the case last night, in the bottom of the fourth, with two out and two on to Bautista against the New York Yankees. By capturing first base, he had loaded the bases for Vernon Wells, described by the Yankees’ commentator as “dangerous.”

Wells hit a ground ball to just behind second base. Nothing special apparently. Aaron Hill crossed the plate from third, but under a different set of circumstances, that wouldn’t count. The fielder scooped up the ball, paused for a split second, and flipped the ball to Robinson Cano on second.

But Bautista was in there, with his leg on the bag as Cano caught the ball, tagging the other side of the base. The umpire waved his hands laterally to signal NO third out, meaning that Hill’s arrival at home counted for a run.

Although Wells got the RBI, the credit for the “action” really belonged to Bautista. This was the fifth score, a valuable insurance run against the three that the Yankees would score.

How he got on first was trademark Bautista. He walked, the thing he does best, placing second in the American League, just two bases on balls behind the Oakland A’s Daric Barton, 78 to 80. (But Barton has only five home run’s to Bautista’s 40, meaning that if you add walks to home runs, the Blue Jay is way ahead, 118 to 85.).

This plate appearance cost starter Phil Hughes six pitches (the four balls plus two strikes), bringing the total to 100, in less than four innings. Bautista drew an earlier walk in the third inning, then scored on a Vernon Wells’ home run.

But of course, Bautista’s great claim to fame is the breakout in his home run hitting. This started last September, when he hit eight long balls in a month, or more than half his total for 2009. Since then, he has hit eight to 12 home runs every other month, bringing about his league leadership.

Bautista came to the Blue Jays late in 2008 from the Pittsburgh Pirates for backup catcher Robinzon Diaz, when the Bucs seemed to be rebuilding their team around catchers. The Pirates also got backup catcher Jason Jaramillo for (catcher) Ronnie Paulino, a genuinely lazy player who, unlike Bautista, did NOT try to beat out throws.

Paulino was also recently suspended for using prohibited substances, a charge that I do NOT believe is true of Bautista. Who has come under scrutiny for the suddenness of his apparent power.

I will discuss this more in a later piece, but I believe that his recent (and largely sustainable) home-run hitting skill is due to changing his approach to the game. Put another way, I believe that he is hitting “smarter” rather than “harder,” like most sluggers would.

But as a walker, runner, slugger, RBI driver, and leading the league in most offensive categories, Bautista is a multifaceted offensive player that his former team, the Pirates never understood. And that’s despite a batting average that’s a bit on the low side.

Kudos to Toronto for bringing out the best in him.



Read more MLB news on