TORONTO – Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista wasn’t sure if an 83-mile per hour curveball from Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez had sailed just wide of the strike zone for Ball 4 in the sixth inning Wednesday.
But when home plate umpire Dan Iassongna called it a ball, Bautista gladly took his base.
“I wasn’t (confident I’d get the call), but I did,” Bautista said. “I was relieved after.”
The pitch, the 10th Bautista had seen from the Royals starter in the at-bat, loaded the bases with nobody out for Toronto en route to a 7-1 win in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
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A walk to Edwin Encarnacion followed Bautista’s free pass and Troy Tulowitzki cleared the bases with a double two batters later to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.
Bautista, who’s 10 for 37 this playoffs with two home runs and eight RBIs, leads all post-season players with eight walks and has a 10-game on-base streak to start his playoff career.
His sixth-inning walk wasn’t an easy one to take — Bautista fouled off five straight sinkers from Volquez that ranged in velocity from 96-98 m.p.h. before Ball 4 missed the outside corner.
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“I was just trying to see the ball and hit it when it was through the zone,” he said. “I was in between, that’s why I kept fouling them off. … I was trying to be careful. That curveball he threw me, it was a good one, it was pretty close.
“You could argue that I got the benefit of a borderline call. Bottom line is I ended up on first and Tulo came through.”
The Royals weren’t sure the walk was warranted.
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Kansas City manager Ned Yost said after the game that he tried to get an appeal on Bautista’s check swing, but the umpires couldn’t hear him over the loud Rogers Centre crowd.
Volquez was adamant the pitch wasn’t a ball.
“I saw the pitch and that was a strike,” he said. “A breaking ball doesn’t have to be right in the middle (when it’s caught). What matters is where it was when it crosses the plate.”
As the series shifts back to Kansas City on Friday for Game 6 with the Royals up 3-2, Bautista said he’s not about to alter his approach at the plate.
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“I want to make something happen, especially with men on base, but I’ve got to be patient enough to swing at strikes,” he said. “It’s a tough act, balancing that out.
“I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to continue with my plate discipline and hopefully force them to throw strikes.”