Jose Bautista had not started in more than a week, and had not homered in nearly a month. But his adoptive home country was celebrating its independence Tuesday afternoon, and the Toronto Blue Jays had dropped three straight games with the Milwaukee Brewers coming to Rogers Centre. Bautista was needed, and he came through on Canada Day by expressing a true patriot's power.
Bautista hit a long home run in the first inning and right-hander Drew Hutchison struck out a career-high 10 for the Jays in a 4-1 victory against the Brewers, who came in sporting the best record in the National League. The Jays lead the AL East by 1 1/2 games heading into Tuesday night's action.
The lone daytime result in Major League Baseball came because Canada is celebrating the anniversary of the unification of its provinces in 1867. (So if anyone ever asks you if "Canada has a Fourth of July," laugh and say, "Everyone has a Fourth of July, silly!" But their independence day comes three days sooner.)
Out of the lineup since June 22 because of a strained left hamstring, Bautista made a pinch-hitting appearance Sunday, and the test run appeared to give him confidence to try DHing for nine innings. Bautista's drive on a 3-2 pitch against right-hander Marco Estrada traveled an estimated 450 feet, getting the sell-out crowd buzzing. It was his 16th homer of the season and first since June 6, a span of 65 plate appearances.
It stood up as the margin of error for Hutchison until the Jays added two insurance runs in the eighth. Colby Rasmus also hit a solo home run, making it 2-0 in the fifth.
Bautista finished 1 for 4 with a walk, and hopes to return to right field Wednesday.
Hutchison came in with an 8.13 ERA in six home starts, but he retired his first 14 batters and allowed a run, three hits and two walks over seven innings.
''It's Canada Day in front of a nice crowd,'' Jays manager John Gibbons said. ''You don't want to lay an egg.''
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