They say that everything’s bigger in Texas.
Thankfully that applies to the Blue Jays bats.
After being held in check by David Price on Saturday and completely shut down by James Shields on Sunday, the Jays rolled into the Lone Star State desperate for offense. Suddenly, in the fifth inning on Monday, an unlikely source (Corey Patterson) hit an unlikely pitch (at neck level) out of the park for an unlikely three run bomb.
And then it was on.
Three more runs in the inning. Five runs in the first inning last night. Ten runs total in a 10-3 win, the second in a row over the defending AL Champs. Everything looks good in Blue Jay land.
As nice as the offensive explosion has been, the most encouraging sign from the two games is the sudden breath of life into two slumping sluggers.
Adam Lind arrived in Texas in the midst of an awful skid. The previous 12 games had completely erased all memories of his strong start to 2011 and brought to mind the struggles he experienced last year. From April 10th on, Lind was batting .149, with a .407 OPS, 0 HR, 4 RBI, and 11 strikeouts. Not only were his at-bats not productive – they were also ugly. Horribly ugly. One-handed swings, weak waves at offspeed pitches, pathetic dribblers and pop-ups.
But Lind loves the Rangers, and mid-way through this series, it shows. In eight at-bats he has four hits, two home runs, five RBI, four runs, and has raised his season OPS over 100 points, from .599 to .707.
Juan Rivera was riding an even bigger streak of futility. Though he started to show signs of life against the Rays (three hits in the series), he also struck out three times, and his season ratios were awful: .137 AVG, .137 SLG, .391 OPS. Many (me included) questioned his effort. Part of me wondered if he was actually alive. He looked like a corpse propped up on a stick.
But as it did with Lind the Texas air is proving refreshing for Juan. 3 for 7, with a HR, 3 RBI, and 2 BB. While the season numbers still look ugly, I’ll take a .518 OPS over a .391 OPS any day of the week. Rivera is now riding a five game hitting streak, and is starting to slowly win the support of Blue Jay fans on Twitter. Remember – this is a guy who hit 25 HR in 2009.
The rejuvenation of Lind and Rivera is immensely huge. Here are two numbers to tell you why:
4/5 refers to where Lind and Rivera were slotted in the batting order used by manager John Farrell in last night’s game. 23 is the number of walks that Jose Bautista has drawn so far this season, the most in all of baseball. Don’t forget that he missed three games, making that number even more staggering.
Those numbers are directly correlated. Pitchers are afraid of Jose Bautista. They are pitching him extremely carefully in all situations, but especially so with runners on base. Thus far he has come to bat 35 times with men on base and drawn 11 walks for a 31% walk rate. With a runner on third? It increases to 50% (5 walks, 10 plate appearances). It’s interesting to note that he has yet to draw a single intentional walk, but it’s obvious that these are as close to intentional as you can get.
And why wouldn’t pitchers walk him? Not only is he a hitting machine, but by walking him they can face Adam Lind and Juan Rivera.
Before Texas they were easy outs.
But if they can maintain the form they’re showing in Texas Bautista might get a few more pitches to hit.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what that means.