Bautista steals spotlight in 17-hit attack

Bautista steals spotlight in 17-hit attack

BOSTON -- Jose Bautista came a few feet shy of sending a pitch out of Fenway Park in the sixth inning on Friday night. Fortunately for the Blue Jays slugger, the baseball did not reach Lansdowne Street and the fan who retrieved it was unaware of its significance.

As Bautista rounded the bases, one of Boston's loyalists grabbed the ball and heaved it from the Green Monster Seats, sending it bouncing into left field as the Fenway faithful roared with approval. Bautista's blast -- one that proved pivotal in the Blue Jays' 11-9 win over the Red Sox -- was his Major League-leading 48th of the season.

With that towering shot, Bautista established a franchise record for home runs in a single season, surpassing George Bell's mark of 47 in 1987. The milestone blast came within a strong offensive night for the Blue Jays, who pieced together a 17-hit attack to help lefty Brett Cecil to the win.

For all the fireworks, though, it was Bautista who stole the spotlight. And in the wake of his latest performance, the slugger did not have to offer any autographs or game-used equipment to barter for the baseball that set the team record. The fan made things easy by throwing the ball back.

"That was pretty nice," Bautista said with a smile. "That's pretty lucky for me for that to happen."

In a game that was wild to the finish, Bautista's home run was well-timed. By sending a 3-2 fastball from Red Sox reliever Michael Bowden sailing over the 37-foot high wall in left field, Bautista staked the Blue Jays to a 10-2 lead. Considering that Boston poured out seven runs over the final four frames, that home run was critical.

Bautista was hardly alone in the offensive outpouring for the Blue Jays, who won for only the second time in the past nine games. Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind each collected a pair of doubles and combined for five RBIs; Fred Lewis reached base five times; and shortstop Yunel Escobar matched a career high with four hits.

Toronto (74-73) did the bulk of its damage against right-hander John Lackey, who was charged with seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Lind put the Jays on the board with a two-run double in the second and Overbay helped Toronto run to an 8-2 lead in the fifth with a two-run double of his own.

Toronto's 11 runs were more than the club scored in the previous three games combined on the road against Baltimore. When it was all said and done, eight players collected at least one hit, eight players crossed the plate at least once and six others notched at least one RBI.

It all proved necessary, too.

"Hey, you never know when you have enough runs in this ballpark," manager Cito Gaston said. "It must be awful tough to manage in this ballpark for 81 ballgames. You never have enough. That's why you have to keep piling them up.

"We haven't swung the bats well lately. We've been struggling big time. Tonight the guys seemed to come up and hit the ball well. I'm not sure how much control was on the other side tonight over there, though."

Cecil (13-7) earned the victory after allowing five runs on seven hits over six innings against the Red Sox (82-65). Boston catcher Victor Martinez belted the first of his two home runs -- a two-run shot -- in the opening frame against Cecil. The lefty later allowed a three-run outburst in the sixth.

For the first time in Cecil's career, he ended with no strikeouts in a start. Even so, it was a better performance than his last outing, when the left-hander gave up seven runs to the Rays over just two innings. It was not pretty, but Cecil benefitted from the run support and was satisfied with the end result.

"I lost it a little bit in the sixth inning," Cecil said, "but I think overall it was pretty good coming back from my last start. I felt great tonight."

A grin crept across Cecil's face when he was asked about Bautista's latest power display.

"It's amazing what he's done this season," Cecil said. "Any time he comes to the plate it's, I don't want to say guaranteed, but it almost seems that way every time he comes up. It's nice to have a guy like that on the team.

"Anybody on the team, the way we've played this season and the way our offense has been, anybody from the top to the bottom of our lineup can go deep at any time. It's nice to have that luxury."

It was nice to see the fan toss Bautista's home run ball back on the field, too.

After the baseball rolled to a stop, Red Sox left fielder Bill Hall picked it up and relayed it to third baseman Adrian Beltre. Instead of tossing it to a fan down the third-base line, Beltre motioned to Toronto's dugout and threw the ball to one of the Jays' staff members.

"It was nice they threw it back," Gaston said. "I think Beltre had a lot to do with keeping it from getting it thrown in the stands. That was awfully nice of him."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.