Ryan Dempster served up the first of the two prodigious home runs Jose Bautista clouted in Toronto’s 12-4 beatdown of the Red Sox Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. The Blue Jays right fielder couldn’t have asked Dempster for a better placement of his first-pitch fastball in the third inning: It was right in his wheelhouse.
“I’m sure he didn’t want to throw it to me in that spot,’’ Bautista said. “He was painting away on me all game long and that ball crept up where I like it more — over the heart of the plate, middle in, and I was able to connect.’’
Bautista colored it gone baby, gone, into the Green Monster seats, where his solo shot ricocheted off the back fence and back onto the field. Toronto had five homers among its 12 hits, including the pair by Bautista, who more than lived up to his “Joey Bats’’ nickname by going 2 for 4 with a walk, 3 runs, and 3 RBIs.
All this came in Bautista’s second consecutive game this season — and eighth in the last three seasons — hitting out of the No. 2 spot in John Gibbons’s lineup, going a combined 4 for 7. Bautista has a .220 batting average in the 82 career starts he’s made hitting second in the lineup, clubbing 12 homers with 44 RBIs and 45 runs.
“Yeah, that’s fine,’’ Bautista said, when asked if he felt comfortable moving up one position from his traditional No. 3 spot in the order. “I’m going to hit wherever Gibby feels he should put me.’’
How could there be any objections, especially after Bautista’s (Green) monster performance on Mother’s Day? Bautista helped put the game out of reach in the sixth inning when he belted a two-run homer off Clayton Mortensen into the front row of the Monster seats.
It was the 18th multihomer game of Bautista’s career, but his first at Fenway. It highlighted a four-run outburst sparked by Brett Lawrie’s leadoff homer off Andrew Miller, who had to be relieved by Mortensen after one-third of an inning.
“Mortensen, he throws a lot of offspeed, so I was looking for something soft,’’ said Bautista, whose eighth and ninth homers moved him into a sixth-place tie with Lloyd Moseby on Toronto’s all-time list with 149. “First one, he made a good pitch, threw it down and I missed it. The second one, he left it up in the zone, where offspeed pitches get punished, and I was able to connect on that as well.’’
By then, the rout was on.
“Any time you can play a game like that and get a good cushion is great,’’ Bautista said. “You get three or four runs ahead and that’s when some guys come out and are able to take some big hacks and that’s why we got the results we got today. We got some homers after we got ahead and we got some key hits in some crucial moments.’’
With closer Joel Hanrahan lost for the season because of a flexor tear in his right forearm that will require season-ending surgery, and de facto closer Andrew Bailey still on the 15-day disabled list, Bautista was asked if the Red Sox were suddenly more vulnerable once an opponent managed to get into their bullpen.
“I mean, you always have a chance, regardless of who they throw out there,’’ Bautista said. “Certainly, their bullpen is not the same without those two names in there. So they got thinned out a little bit, but they’re a pitching-deep organization so I’m sure they’re going to find some replacements. They’re a team that always remains active, so they might make a transaction and solidify their bullpen any way that they can.’’
After hitting third in Toronto’s lineup the first 30 games this season, with only a .224 average, Bautista said he didn’t change his approach when he moved up to the No. 2 spot.
“Pitchers know who I am, I know who they are, and I know how they’re going to try to get me out,’’ Bautista said. “If they execute, they get me out. If I execute, I’m probably going to hit the ball hard somewhere.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.