Mariners-Blue Jays Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays return to Rogers Centre just in time for

Jose Bautista to possibly hit his 50th home run in front of the

home fans.

After a disappointing six-game road trip, Toronto (75-74) opens

a three-game series Tuesday night against the league-worst Seattle

Mariners.

Bautista failed to homer in his fourth straight game Sunday,

going 0 for 4 in the Blue Jays’ 6-0 loss to Boston.

With a franchise-record 49 home runs, the slugger is one shy of

becoming the 26th player in history to reach the 50-homer mark.

Prince Fielder (50) and Alex Rodriguez (54) last accomplished the

feat in 2007.

Bautista’s previous season high was 16, which he amassed in 2006

with Pittsburgh. He has two home runs in 39 career at-bats against

the Mariners.

Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki also has a chance to reach a milestone

in this series, as he remains seven hits short of reaching 200 for

the 10th straight season. Ichiro leads the league with 193

hits.

“It’s amazing what he can do,” second baseman Chone Figgins told

the Mariners’ official website. “He’s able to get all kinds of

hits, from balls he barely touches to home runs, and that’s why he

gets 200 hits every year.”

Despite Ichiro’s success, the Mariners (57-92) are an AL-worst

22-50 on the road, where they have lost four straight and nine of

11.

Scheduled starter Luke French (4-5, 4.02 ERA) has been shaky on

the road as well, posting a 1-4 record with a 5.46 ERA in five away

starts.

The left-hander allowed four runs and six hits over seven

innings Tuesday in a 9-6 loss to Boston but left without a

decision. He has never faced Toronto.

He’ll be opposed by struggling Marc Rzepczynski (1-4, 6.15), who

is winless in six straight starts.

The left-hander picked up his only win of the season Aug. 13,

when he limited the Angels to two hits over seven innings in a 3-0

victory. He is 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA since that win.

Rzepczynski did not receive a decision in his only start against

the Mariners, allowing three runs over 5 1-3 innings with eight

strikeouts July 28, 2009.

Toronto, which has lost eight of 11, hopes to have second

baseman Aaron Hill available in the series opener. He has missed

the last two games after getting hit by a pitch on his right wrist

Friday.

“We have to just take it one day at a time,” manager Cito Gaston

told Toronto’s official website. “Hopefully he can play

Tuesday.”

Hill has 24 home runs and 63 RBIs this season, but is hitting

.211, 61 points below his career average.

Sunday’s loss officially eliminated the Blue Jays from playoff

contention.

“It’s always disappointing when the playoffs are starting and

you’re not one of the teams in it,” second baseman John McDonald

said. “We set out goals of making the playoffs and the World

Series.”