The Toronto Blue Jays may be too far back in the chase to reach the postseason, but Jose Bautista isn’t giving up.
Bautista can join elite company if he homers again Tuesday night when Toronto hosts the Chicago Cubs.
The Blue Jays (74-69) have won seven of nine following an 8-0 victory in Monday’s series opener. However, they’re tied with the Yankees and still trail four other teams in the AL wild-card standings.
Toronto’s hopes of reaching the postseason might rest on the shoulders of Bautista, who hit his 32nd homer Monday and his eighth during a 12-game hitting streak in which he has 15 RBIs.
It was also Bautista’s sixth straight game at Rogers Centre with a home run. With another Tuesday, Bautista would become the third player since 1914 to homer in seven straight home games, joining Roy Campanella in 1955 and Willie Mays in 1965.
He also has four homers in his last five interleague games.
"I’m very proud and honored to have done it here," said Bautista, who became the fifth player to hit 200 homers for the Blue Jays. "I’m just really happy."
The Cubs (64-80) could use an offensive spark of their own after scoring seven runs during a four-game skid. Chicago, which hasn’t lost five straight since July 12-20, as held to three hits in Marcus Stroman’s first career complete game Monday.
Rookies Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are a combined 3 for 35 during the slide.
Mark Buehrle (11-9, 3.34 ERA) will try to follow Stroman’s impressive outing, though he’s 0-2 with a 4.36 ERA over his last six starts while getting only 2.18 runs of support per game during that stretch. He did his part Thursday, scattering five hits over eight innings before Toronto won 1-0 in 10.
"Physically, the way I felt and the way the ball was moving, I’ll try to bottle it up and feel like that every start," Buehrle told MLB’s official website
The left-hander has endured an even longer home drought, going 0-4 with a 4.75 ERA in eight starts since last winning there June 1. He’s 3-2 with a 2.42 ERA over his last seven starts against the Cubs.
Jake Arrieta (8-5, 2.81) starts for Chicago. He has limited opponents to two runs or fewer while completing at least six innings in six of his last eight starts, including a 7-1 win over Milwaukee last Tuesday when he gave up five hits in six innings.
He’ll look to be more economical with his pitches, however, after throwing 96 against the Brewers. He also needed 96 to get through only four innings in a 7-2 loss at Cincinnati in his previous start.
"The pitch count got elevated with some extended at-bats which probably cost myself another inning," he told MLB’s official website.
Arrieta is 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA in his last four road outings and hasn’t won away from home since June 30. However, he’s won two straight interleague starts while giving up one run and five hits in 14 2-3 innings.
He hasn’t started against the Blue Jays since allowing six earned runs in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-6 road loss with Baltimore on May 29, 2012.
Bautista is 0 for 10 versus Arrieta, but Adam Lind is 4 for 9 with a homer and a double.