Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/21/12
Mlb-blue-jays-orioles-apr
It had come to this in The Saga of Joey Bats: On a chilly April Friday in Kansas City, the visiting Toronto Blue Jays had somehow scratched their way back into a 2-2 tie with the Royals. In the top of the eighth, things got interesting. There were runners on second and third. No out. Royals reliever Greg Holland, a flame-throwing righty, was starting to labor against the Jays' No. 2 hitter, left-handed Kelly Johnson. Jose Bautista, Toronto's right-handed slugger, was on deck. Kansas City manager Ned Yost had a decision to make. Put the pressure on Johnson, a second baseman who'd come into the night with a .214 career average against the Royals? Or Bautista, an All-Star outfielder who was toting a .274 career mark against Kansas City? Johnson, who's hit 50 home runs since 2010? Or Bautista, who's mashed 99? Yost didn't hesitate. He elected to intentionally walk Johnson, loading the bases. He wanted Joey Bats. Sometimes, baseball is a game of feel. Instinct. In Yost's defense, Bautista came into the top of the eighth hitting at a .205 clip. Through the first seven innings, the burly right fielder was just four for his last 21. Joey Bats had gone flat. It's early, sure. But when last April you hit .366 with nine home runs and this one, you're hitting .214 with two dingers, it starts to feel a little less early all the time. "I mean, it's nothing to laugh about," Bautista said early Friday afternoon, before the Jays opened a seven-game road trip at Kauffman Stadium. "I just think, sometimes, people get anxious and they want to see results. Sometimes, they're not as patient. Bottom line, it's a long season. You've just got to take it one day at a time and realize there are long streaks, good streaks and bad streaks. And it can happen anytime during the season: At the beginning, the middle, or end. It's impossible to be the same every single year." And yet, over the previous two years ever since he tweaked his swing and adapted to hitting coach Dwayne Murphy's "Grip It And Rip It" philosophy Bautista had been remarkably consistent. In April and May 2010: 16 home runs. In April and May 2011: 20. Pre All-Star break 2010: 24 homers. Pre All-Star break 2011: 34. "We talked about, from a team standpoint, that 35-40-game mark you're going to get a read on what a hitter does once he gets close to that 100-at-bat plateau," Jays manager John Farrell explained. "But Jose, while he's gotten off to an uncharacteristically slow start, there have been signs there and stretches where the bat speed is there, the timing has clicked, and he's really squared some balls up. "And while the numbers (aren't there) as far as batting average, and maybe the fact that he's got two home runs from 12 games, that's just a start." Bautista insists that he hasn't changed his stance. Or his routine. Or his mantra. Joey Bats still does the little things, the stuff that won't rock your fantasy world. He's reached base in seven straight games and went into Friday's action tied for the first in the American League with 11 bases on balls. But timely walks usually don't make a dent in the nightly highlight packages. Long balls do. "I think it's a perception thing," Bautista said. "Sometimes it just seems that way, so people try to make a bigger deal than it really is." Ask Joey Bats about the purgatory of slumps, he'll roll his eyes. This is a man who once got passed through five organizations in one season. He's been dumped more times than Dobie Gillis. And you expect him to panic over two weeks in April? "The best example was last year with (Albert) Pujols," Toronto outfielder Eric Thames chuckled. "I mean, he was hitting like .200 for like the first two or three months and everyone was like, 'He's old, he's tired, he can't hit anymore.' And then he just went off and hit .290, .300 like he always does. "And that's the funny thing about the fans and the writers: Everybody wants results now, every single game. They want you to get three or four hits, two home runs per game. It's baseball. It's a long season. There's ups and there's downs, but nobody doubts what he can do. He's fine. He's our leader. He's one of the best hitters in the game. Yeah, we all have cold streaks. I'm going through a cold streak right now. I mean, it's OK. There's always the next game. And you never know when you're going to bust out." You never do. Which brings us back to Friday night, Joey Bats digging in, the evening in his hands. Holland missed with a slider, then again with a four-seam fastball. On a 2-0 count, Bautista reared back and took a giant whack at a 95-mile-per-hour four-seamer. He fouled it back. On the fourth pitch of the at bat, Holland went with a fastball again, this one at 96. Bautista whipped the offering into short right field for a single, a rocket that wound up plating the decisive run. "Maybe they were just going off how he's been hitting the last few games or something like that," Thames said after the Jays escaped with a 4-3 victory. "But we were all kind of like, 'Wow. They must have REALLY wanted that right-on-right matchup.'" They wanted Joey Bats. They got him. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Predators fans throw catfish on ice to celebrate Stanley Cup berth

WATCH: Draymond Green tries just a little to hard to sell foul

Eddie George fires up Predators fans before Game 4 vs Ducks

Viktor Arvidsson had bloody ‘R’ on forehead after hit

Danny Ainge’s son running for congressional seat in Utah

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

John Wall’s retweet saves fan from taking final exam

WATCH: Cubs pull off two miraculous defensive plays in a row

To raise money for charity, a wrestling fan has Cody Rhodes slam him on thumbtacks

Gregg Popovich on Steve Kerr’s health issues: ‘It’s just a crap situation’

CJ McCollum clearly interested in having Paul Millsap join Blazers

Injuries are depriving us from watching the Spurs thrive in the clutch

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

The 'Happy birthday to two of the NBA's all-time antagonists' quiz

The shortstop evolution continues to raise the ceiling

Three Up, Three Down: Astros dominate in every category

Box Score 5/19: Heartbreak in OT

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

Getaway Day: League leaders falter allowing new teams to surge ahead

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Best of Yardbarker: Gregg Popovich doesn't mince words

The 'Happy birthday to two of the NBA's all-time antagonists' quiz

The shortstop evolution continues to raise the ceiling

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker