Bautista, Jays hammer Indians
Will he stay or will he go? Jose Bautista doesn't know, but he sure made No. 31 count.
On a night when trade rumours were swirling ahead of Saturday's trade deadline, the Blue Jays slugger hit a grand slam to extend his league-leading home-run total, powering Toronto to an 8-1 drubbing of the visiting Cleveland Indians.
Right-hander Shaun Marcum was stellar, holding Cleveland to three hits and striking out 10 — one shy of his career-high 11 — over seven innings. Marcum (10-4) has won his last three starts.
"He probably pitched one of his best games all year," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston, who told Marcum to stay home and rest Saturday.
Toronto (54-49) has now won six of seven and is riding a four-game streak.
Finding room for Travis
Asked if he thought people would be surprised not to see Travis Snider in the lineup, Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston fired back with a question of his own.
"Where would you like for me to put him?" Gaston asked.
The 22-year-old was recalled Friday but didn't crack the starting lineup. Snider has been out of the mix more than two months since he sprained a ligament in his right wrist, and his return was twice delayed by other roster requirements.
Gaston said Snider will be shuffled into the lineup and admitted he'll have to get creative.
"I'm just trying to play everybody, that's all. … I'm trying to be fair with everyone. Even Vernon is going to be out of there sometimes. The guys will rotate around first base, third base and the outfield. Snider will get enough playing time."
Bautista, who came to the plate with fans chanting "MVP," reached base on all five at-bats, going 3-3 with a walk, hit-by-pitch and two singles.
Rumour mill churns about trade
His name has been at the centre of trade rumours, and the buzz continued with the approach of Saturday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.
Bautista left the game for a pinch-runner in the eighth, a move that led to a bout of speculation on whether he may have been dealt. Gaston said he was just giving his slugger a rest.
"Hopefully, they keep me around," Bautista said. "I like this team a lot, I like my teammates. … I'm just having a lot of fun right now."
"You can't help to hear stuff. Sometimes your friends or your agent or somebody will say something about it. I'm trying not to look at it too much so I can keep focusing on playing every day."
His grand slam was Toronto's league-leading 157th homer this season. No. 156 came an inning earlier, a solo shot from leadoff man Fred Lewis, his seventh of the season.
Toronto has now homered in 11 straight games.
The wheels came off for Cleveland (42-61) and for starting pitcher Justin Masterson in the fourth, when Toronto collected six of 14 hits on the night.
Lyle Overbay, who went 4-3, and Aaron Hill opened the frame with back-to-back singles, and Edwin Enarnacion drove Hill home on a third single.
Lewis loaded the bases on the fourth single of the inning, Yunel Escobar scored Overbay on a fifth, and then Bautista strode to the plate and belted No. 31 into the left-field bleachers for his third career grand slam.
Bautista a tough act to follow
Centre-fielder Vernon Wells followed that up with a double, but the bases were already empty.
"I told [Bautista], 'Thanks, keep driving in all the runs.' It's hard to follow up what he's doing. I either punch out or hit a measly double, which I did in that situation. It's no fun. He takes all the fun out of the game."
Wells's assessment of Bautista had a serious side as well.
"He's obviously come into his own," he said. "You can rely on him at third base, you can rely on him in right field. He's one of the better right-fielders I've played with and seen play. All that is bonus to what he's doing at the plate. Hopefully, he'll stick around."
Right-hander Justin Germano replaced Masterson in the sixth after Escobar scored on a wild pitch. Cleveland, which has now lost three straight, didn't give up another run.
Cleveland's lone run came in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from first baseman Matt LaPorta that drove in Carlos Santana. Earlier in the inning Santana hit a single that deflected off Overbay, a ball Hill lost his shoe on while trying to recover the deflection and make the out.
Casey Janssen and Shawn Camp pitched an inning apiece to close the game for Toronto.
The Indians were swept by the Jays in May, then won four straight from June 28-July 1. Cleveland has won the last six of nine at the Rogers Centre.
With files from The Canadian Press